A monument reportedly raised in the Alps in honor of a faithful guide who perished while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded tourist. It read “He died climbing!” Believe it or not, that is what we all want to be said of us when our time on this earth is over. None of us want to burn out before we breathe our last breath and so each day, each week, each year we have this inner, inspirational dissatisfaction.
Inspirational dissatisfaction is a restlessness of heart that comes from recognizing the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Without it we make a truce with the status quo and quit struggling against our shortcomings. With it we have the motivation to make the changes necessary to be all God wants us to be. Ask yourself right now, “Am I where I want to be or had planned to be in ministry at this point in my life?” If your answer is no that is what inspirational dissatisfaction is all about. It springs forth from self-awareness.
This begs the question, “How do I go about reaching the point in ministry I desire?” How can I maximize my ministry and fulfill the will of God for my life before I leave this earth?
Thomas Goodman (1961/1994) identifies four steps to determining, implementing, and maximizing your ministry. Let me give them to you upfront. First, create what is called “Your Ministry Manifesto.” Second, conduct a personal checkup. Third, Set Goals for Personal Improvement. Fourth, Set Action Plans.
Stage 1 – Identify
Here goes. Let’s talk about Identify: What happens in the identify stage? Vance Havner reportedly said, “The devil will let a preacher prepare a sermon if it will keep him from preparing himself (Goodman, 1961/1994, p.2).” This training is aimed to help you commit to a personal development plan that is in concert with your ministry goals.
In this stage, the identify stage, you identify the message God gave you when God called you to ministry. No message, no call. Everyone in the scripture God called, God gave them a message, God developed them through tests and trials to embody the message he gave them. For example, God told Hosea to marry a harlot to embody the message that God was committed to his people although they were committing harlotry with other gods.
Robert Bellah in his book “Habits of the Heart,” writes, “For most of us, it is easier to think about how to get what we want than to know what exactly we should want” (Goodman, 1961/1994, p.7). Whether you admit it or not, you must understand that Jesus called you to a specific ministry, a specific message and the embryo of this calling is contained in your initial sermon. Every sermon you will ever preach is contained in that initial message and you need to go back, take a look at it and dissect that message for key themes, concerns, and issues that Christ elevated in your heart on that initial outing.
For those who are not called to preach, you have to take the time to examine your passion. Locate the zeal in your heart; what fires you up; what matters to you. Herein lies the key to your calling and the zeal and passion in your spirit is where God resonates most within you. So start with that zeal and that passion. Jesus had such a zeal, in John 2:13-17 he demonstrates how that zeal can cause action in line with your zeal. This is one of the times that mild mannered Clark Kent turned into superman. Jesus turned the tables upside down and actually got a whip and ran priests engaged in selling sacrifices out of the temple. He was lit up about the fact that he believed “God’s house should be a house of prayer for all people” and that zeal led him to act.
Preaching messages that don’t set your soul on fire simply indicates that you are preaching someone else’s message. It may become yours one day, but that day has not arrived if that message does not resonate within your spirit. That is why it is critical for you to dissect your initial sermon to find those topics that light your soul on fire. And the key is you have to be intentional about it; you can’t wait for it to develop, you have to find it. Intentional Ministry is ministry aimed at developing the life work God has called you to so you can stay in your lane and maximize your ministry.
Think about a person who has impressed you. Why do you admire that person? Now think about a person who negatively impresses you. What is it about that person that has disappointed you? What plan have you developed to ensure you walk in the direction of the person who impressed you positively rather than the one who impressed you negatively? Again, if you do not act intentionally, you will miss valuable opportunities to maximize your ministry.
You have heard it said, “Without a vision, the people perish.” Well without a personal vision, you will perish. And this word perish means you will fade away, burnout, not complete the ministry or life God intended when he called you. When you serve without a sense of purpose, you are vulnerable to self-doubt, squandered resources, and hostile division. A splinter in your soul will negatively impact your preaching and your service. Do what you do on purpose and you’ll always be empowered, energized, and engaged.
Stage 2 – Create your Ministry Manifesto
Having said that once you identify your message, you need to develop a personal ministry manifesto, a public declaration of intent, to guide you over the course of your ministry. A ministry manifesto, is your “defiant shout into the faces of those who oppose your ministry. This manifesto gives you a framework for ministry, prevention against burnout, and a framework for better stewardship of your time. It also motivates you and allows you to engage in meaningful productivity as well as provide a renewed sense of the dignity of your calling.
A personal ministry manifesto, allows you to define your objectives in ministry which gives you ample justification when talking with bishops, elders, and others involved in your ministry. It enables you to present your priorities, your message to those seeking your services, or those trying to set your agenda for you.
Imagine the bishop for those of you on the call in ministry, calling you saying he or she wants to appoint you to another church. Intelligently, respectfully you ask the bishop what that church needs and what the bishop sees as the priorities for helping that church go to the next level. Well, once the bishop explains his goals for that church; your knowledge or your message, your gifts, and graces will allow you to either agree that you would be a fit for that church or allow you to convince the bishop that you would not be a good fit based on who you are and your message. Listen, “when others try to set our agenda, we must be able to explain our objectives to them” (Goodman, 1961/1994, p.15).
Finally, to develop your ministry manifesto you need to prepare a written statement of your objectives (identify), examine ways you can fulfill your objectives (strategize), set goals in relation to your statements of objectives (strategize), and make a plan of action for each goal that you set (act).
I would love to coach you in this process and help you develop your ministry manifesto as well as develop your plans and strategies to maximize your ministry in the near future. You can schedule me for one on one coaching in this process or you can book me to come to your church and provide training in this area for you and your members.
Goodman, Thomas (1961/1994). The intentional minister: 4 powerful steps to determining, implementing, and fulfilling your ministry priorities. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman