The Six Words No One Wants To Hear In Ministry

Posted: July 16, 2013 by Eric Johnson in Vision and Leadership
Tags: , , , ,

not listeningI once volunteered in a congregation that attracted hundreds of young people to a monthly worship service.  It was initially attractive because the leadership team was savvy in the ways of branding and social media and innovative in their approach to providing those who came with a powerful experience.

As members of that team moved on over time, things began to unravel.  Those of us involved after their departure gathered to discuss the future of the ministry.  After a lengthy discussion about ways to draw large numbers of students back to the monthly service, it eventually became clear to me that there were glaring deficiencies in the ministry.  These deficiencies led me to ask the six words no one ever wants to hear in ministry.

 “What are we trying to accomplish?”

While the monthly service fostered emotional intimacy with God for one night, it did nothing the rest of the month.  Students would come to see their friends, but had no sense of authentic community outside of the event.  There was a call to share the love of Jesus with the world, but no intentional efforts to equip students for missional living.  And so while it was an emotionally powerful event, it produced limited lasting transformation in the lives of those who attended.

I see so many churches in the same boat, who say they want to be missional, to make an impact on the world, and to spread the Good News of Jesus.  However, when the vast majority of the resources are tied up in maintaining the institution of the church, then I again feel compelled to ask those six words: “What are we trying to accomplish?”  While their mission statement may say one thing, functionally, they value something completely different.

I truly believe every pastor and ministry leader wants to make disciples. As stated in previous posts, we believe the rhythms of discipleship to be intimacy with God, authentic community, and missional living. I don’t know of a leader that would disagree with these.   The reason church leaders don’t like those six words is that they force leaders to evaluate what their programs are actually accomplishing, and they may not like what they find out.

If you are a ministry leader, you must have a definition of discipleship.  It does not have to be our definition, but it must be one rooted in the teachings of Jesus. You also must honestly evaluate the ministry in light of that definition.  If the processes and programs do not align with that definition, you have to be willing to ask what those ministries are really trying to accomplish.  Asking these six words can be painful (which is why no one wants to hear them), but they are necessary in order to be good stewards of the ministry God has called each of us to.

So how about your ministries?  Do you have a definition of discipleship? What are you trying to accomplish?


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