Do you remember when you were called into the ministry, to a particular church or to a ministry in your church? Have you thought about what the primary call of God is on your life? The primary call on your life is not ministry or a ministry but rather intimacy with Jesus. Discipleship 101 (Mark 3:14-15) reminds us that when Jesus called the 12 disciples, He called them “to be with Him.” In John 15, we are told to abide in Him. Ministry is what Jesus does through our lives out of the overflow of our intimacy with Him. Vance Pitman says, “Ministry is the great love affair that woos us away from our intimacy with Christ.”
Leading in ministry is difficult, and it is very easy to get so focused on doing stuff for Jesus that we forget about the importance of being with Jesus. Speaking of Jesus, He would break away from His “ministry” for extended times to be in the presence of His Father. Luke 6:12 tells us that He spent the entire night in prayer.
Bill Elliff says, “I have often wondered at our arrogance about this. If the Son of God needed extended hours with the Father, how do we think we could do otherwise and minister effectively?” The peace that passes all understanding can only be experienced out of the overflow of our intimacy with Christ.
Do we think more highly of our abilities and leadership skills than we should? Humility reminds us of how desperately we need Jesus and how thankful we should be that He has provided others to work alongside us. Pride causes us to think we are indispensable and turns us into workaholics.
Dale Burke tells us, “Because of pride, you find yourself wanting to be in control. You have to do it all, stay in control.” Work harder, work longer and make it happen because if you don’t nobody else will. The unfortunate outcome is that we get so busy doing for Jesus that we remove the most important element of being with Jesus.
The pride issue is a problem that all of us must be aware of every single day. Let’s go back to the concept of extended prayer time with God. Bill Elliff states in Presence Centered Church, “Our lives are filled with activity, appointments, and hundreds of conversations, but it is our pride that causes us to rarely give God times of undivided attention… If you don’t think you have time, begin by repenting of your opinion of your own importance. The world can make it without you one day a month.” What would it look like for you to break away one day a month just to seek His presence and deeper intimacy with your Savior?
Here are some practical rhythms to consider to ensure that your ministry is an overflow of your intimacy with Him:
• Make sure you protect your daily quiet time. Everyone’s rhythms are different, with some being early risers and others being night owls. The principle is that when we do get up each morning, the first thing we should acknowledge is that “this is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” It has been correctly stated that when you make every God-given day a God-governed day, it will become a God-gladden day. Prayer is making sure that we discover and follow God’s agenda and not ours.
• Consider a day each month where you spend an extended time seeking Him. Bill Elliff gives this insight, “Any leader who desires to experience the presence must make deliberate time to dial in… Usually, you will make more progress in this one day of concentrated communion than in a whole week of scattered thinking.” Henry Blackaby reminds us that it was a prayer that set the agenda for Jesus’ ministry. Prayer preceded the miracles. Prayer brought Him encouragement at critical moments. Prayer enabled Him to endure the cross. Prayer kept Him on the cross despite excruciating pain. Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray!”
• Fasting can quiet us and usher us, in a very special way, into His presence. Fasting allows us to say no to the many things that are always striving for their attention and control. Bill Elliff adds this on fasting, “You experience an amazing quiet when the voices that pull you in multiple directions are starved and silenced.” An extended time (day or more) along with fasting enables us to give Him our attention and only Him. Jesus did not say “if” you fast but “when” you fast. This intentional focused time reminds us that our perspective is limited, our efforts and striving will never be enough, and that our flesh is very deceitful.
In order for ministry to come out of your overflow and intimacy with Him, you must be willing to take responsibility for your spiritual walk or lack thereof. Remaining humble keeps us open to honest feedback from others and from ourselves. Pride causes you to live in denial, where, unfortunately, we choose to ignore what is obvious to everyone else. In Spiritual Depression, Martin Lloyd Jones emphasized the importance of self-examination. This is not merely admitting there is a problem but addressing the problem scripturally. The Psalmist said, “Why art thou cast down O my soul, why are thou disquieted within me?…” (Psa. 42:5).
The person most responsible for your spiritual walk and intimacy with Christ is you. J Oswald Sanders put it this way: “We are, at this moment, as close to God as we really choose to be.” Lloyd-Jones stated, “…remind yourself of God, Who God is, what God is, what God has done and what God has pledged Himself to do.” God has promised us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness and self-control. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit can only occur by abiding in the vine.
Spiritual leadership is not working harder and longer but instead allowing our ministry and service to occur out of the overflow of our intimacy with Him.