I’d like to share what I’ve learned from being on staff at NewSpring for the last 20 years. Here are five things I wish I could go back and tell 22-year-old me before entering ministry. I hope it’s an encouragement and challenge to you!
Before Entering Ministry:
1. YOU ARE NOT GOD’S GIFT TO THE CHURCH. THE CHURCH IS GOD’S GIFT TO YOU.
Early in ministry, I believed the lie that NewSpring should be so glad to have brilliant, talented me as its worship leader. What a joke! In the early years, that toxic belief inhibited my ability to be happy and healthy. I couldn’t see that Jesus was giving me the gift of ministry life in order to bless me and make me more like him. My work at NewSpring was and is not about my work in the church; it has always been about God’s work in me.
God told his people in Isaiah 43:10, “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.”
Bottom line: God gave you the gift of ministry so that you would know him. If you lean into that truth, you will find power, effectiveness, freedom and joy in your work that you never thought possible.
2. YOU MUST BUILD AND STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH.
Before entering ministry, you need to know that ministry is incredibly difficult. It is 24/7/365 work. And it takes big faith. The best thing you can do for your ministry career is build and strengthen your faith. Here’s how … it comes in two ways: the WORD and WORSHIP.
THE WORD—In Romans 10:17, Paul states that faith comes from hearing the words of Christ. All the words of the Bible are Jesus’ words. Do you want more faith? Put your eyes on every page, every line and every word. Every time you look at the Bible, your faith is growing.
WORSHIP—In Romans 4:20-21, Paul tells the story of Abraham and highlights the fact that “no unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” As I give glory to God in worship, I find my faith strengthened. Do you feel weak in your faith? Stop and worship and regain your strength.
3. YOU MUST PRAY.
I know this seems overly simple, but if you neglect prayer, you won’t have power, or insight, or peace, or pretty much anything you need for effective ministry. Here are a few practical ways to enrich your prayer life
Same Place/Same Time Prayer—Find a spot in your home, a favorite chair or desk, and let that be your holy place. Meet with God there every day, at the same time. Daily disciplined prayer empowers spontaneous unceasing prayer.
Everywhere/All the Time Prayer—For me, “praying without ceasing” relies on a few phrases that I have loaded up as good default thoughts throughout the day. Thanks. Help. WOW. I Love You Too. Let these words spark a conversational intimacy with God. You’ll need to be able to hear his voice in the moment when you’re pastoring people.
Pray Big—Your prayer list is a written testimony to your belief in the power and goodness of God. If I were to read it, would I think God was rich, generous and all powerful? Or would I think that your prayer list was just a to-do list, a notepad full of words you’re using to pump yourself up for the day ahead? God owns everything, loves you infinitely and is all powerful. He has promised to give us what we ask for (Mark 11:24). Believe it, and ASK!
4. YOU MUST HAVE A THEOLOGICALLY CORRECT ATTITUDE.
Before entering ministry, know that it is messy and difficult. Sunday is always coming. If you want to survive, you have to choose an attitude that reflects a strong belief in the complete sovereignty of God. Newsflash: When things go sideways, someone is watching. A volunteer, a staff member … someone who is looking to you as an example of faith. God’s will for your life is to “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). No matter what happens, God is on our side. He reigns. We win. So, SMILE!
5. YOU MUST LIVE WORTHY OF IMITATION.
Before entering ministry, know that the people you serve are imitating you whether you like it or not. Can you say “do everything in your life just like me and you will succeed”? People at your church are commanded by the scriptures in Hebrews 13:7 to consider your way of life and imitate your faith. If you don’t have a life and faith worth imitating, then you put a stumbling block in the path of your people. Examine every nook and cranny in your life and ask the Spirit to give you his insight in every area. He knows what disciplines will bring you joy and abundance.
Before entering ministry, remember the Gospel for yourself every day. Jesus paid for all your sins … even the tiniest mistake that comes from simply not being perfect … Jesus paid for it. So live free, full of joy, and have fun! Ministry life is hard, but it’s the best! And the best is yet to come!