(Note: This is a guest post written by Pastor Edward Caballero. I am currently away and thank Pastor Caballero for this guest post. If you have thoughts and questions, feel free to comment and when he has time he will respond.)
This year marks my ten year anniversary as pastor of Anaheim Community Church, Ten years since I last sat in a seminary classroom. I loved everything about seminary but one memory continues to rise to the surface as most important and most meaningful; the time certain professors made to impart their ministry experience to us as students. No parsing of verbs, no grammatical or syntactical analysis, no construction of logical arguments to defend the doctrines of Scripture, just sharing personal experiences that they learned in ministry. Of the tens of thousands of pages read and paradigms memorized, these moments were and are so very valuable to me as a husband, pastor, and disciple of Jesus Christ.
When taking the responsibility to follow the call of the Lord into ministry, there are some essential lessons that will prove to be helpful to anyone who desires to honor God with the ministries entrusted to him. Below are a few of those lessons that have helped me to remain focused and faithful to God.
Minister for the Father
This should go without saying but you are in ministry for the glory of God. This means that everything you do in and as ministry should be to point others to and magnify Him. When Jesus was engaged in His earthly ministry, more than once He spoke of doing the Father’s business (Luke 2:49) or desiring His will to be done (Matthew 6:10; 26:42). The mission of the Messiah was His to take and fulfill but the plans for the mission were designed by the Father (Ephesians 1:3-6). Without ministering for the Father, the plan of salvation would still be just a plan and not an accomplished provision. Make sure that your ministry is for the Father and not for men.
Minister to the Faithful
With so many projects and events that need to be planned and executed, it is very easy to forget that in order to minister for the Father, you need to minister to those who are faithful to the Father. In their book, The Trellis and the Vine, Tony Payne and Colin Marshall remind ministers that building the trellis (the structure of the ministry of the local church) is important but never at the expense of the vine (the faithful). Many times we as ministers strive to build the “trellis” but in our passion to “build”, we neglect the “vine” and watch it wither before our eyes. With so many projects and needs that are a reality in ministry, it is very easy to forget that a vital part of ministry for the Father is to care for those who were entrusted to you; those who were purchased at the great cost of the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12; 1 Peter 1:18-19)
Minister to the Fallen
Ministry for the Father and to the faithful is absolutely essential. However, if we are not careful, we can allow these important tasks overshadow another vital aspect of faithful ministry; ministering to the fallen. During our board meetings we often evaluate our ministries and one thing that we always agree upon is that even though we reach out beyond the walls of our congregation, we can always (and should) strive to do more. I am talking about evangelism. While many speak about the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), very few actually fulfill the task. Many churches sponsor visually stunning events that attract thousands of people, yet they rarely, if ever, proclaim a clear gospel message. The church is built on Jesus as the cornerstone (1 Peter 2:7), but it is made of up living stones (1 Peter 2:4) who begin as fallen sinners. In order for the church to grow, you as a faithful minister must be about the Father’s business of soul-winning. If you expect to see those in your congregation share the gospel, you must set the example for them to follow.
Minister to Your Family
Ministry for the Father, to the faithful, and to the fallen will only flourish when you are ministering to your family. In his explanation of the qualification for elders in the church Paul said, “He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Timothy 3:4-5 NASB). When you partner this with the exhortations in Ephesians (5:25-6:4), it is clear that men who desire to lead well cannot and must not neglect the ministry to their own family. One day (over twenty years ago) during a heated discussion with my wife (the topic of this discussion has long been forgotten), she drew back her bow and let her arrow of truth fly at full speed and pierce into my heart when she said, “You treat the people at church better than you treat us”. For the first time in my life I was literally speechless. What could I say? How could I respond? She was absolutely right. I had allowed my zeal to serve others to overshadow my most important ministry; my ministry at home. Thankfully, the Lord taught me a lesson through the words of my young and disappointed wife; a lesson that I will never forget.
Now that I have the responsibility to shepherd a small flock, I feel I understand the lessons imparted to me in a much clearer and more personal way. I have experienced some “successes” in ministry and some “failures” as well. My prayer for this brief article is that I can be as exhortational and encouraging to you as other men of God have been to me.