A Biblical Philosophy of Ministry – Part 1
(Adapted by Chris Williams)
Note: This is a 3 Parts Series. Please see the April and May Issues for the second and third parts.
If we are to be faithful leaders, we must work diligently to develop a philosophy for ministry that is both fundamentally strategic and thoroughly biblical. This Paper will present the pillars of an effective, biblical philosophy of ministry.
Consider the following questions:
- What should drive a particular ministry?
- Are there different approaches I can take to have an effective ministry?
- How do we evaluate a potential ministry opportunity?
- How do we develop a ministry that is biblically-driven?
DEFINING A PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
What is a philosophy of ministry and why is a clearly defined philosophy of ministry important?
A. Defined generally
A philosophy of ministry is a set of unalterable principles that determines how you will function in your ministry. Simply stated, your philosophy of ministry defines why you do what you do.
- Defined specifically
A biblical philosophy of ministry is a set of non-negotiable biblical principles that guides all the choices and decisions in your ministry.
Your philosophy of ministry should be drawn from a careful investigation of both the explicit teaching of Scripture and any implicit methodologies which can be gleaned from seeing how ministry occurred in the early church. Of course, no discussion of explicit or implicit teachings from Scripture can stand outside of the proper exegetical and hermeneutical control.
When you are able to define your philosophy of ministry in this crucial way, you will not only know why you do what you do, by how to actually do it.
BENEFITS OF A PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
- It develops a unity of direction.
Once your philosophy of ministry has been firmly established, it filters down through the rest of the flock to form a consistent approach to ministry. It also works to encourage consistent communication of your purpose and overall direction. It keeps the congregation on the same page. Keep in mind this does not happen overnight.
- It defines each focus of your ministry in relation to the whole.
With this kind of philosophy, you can avoid the complementation vs. competition trap as well as distinction vs. duplication.
- It forces you to determine your month-to-month and year-to-year goals with an overall biblical understanding of ministry firmly in your mind.
- It delineates our biblical priorities for pastoral ministry.
DEVELOPING A PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
Everyone has a philosophy of ministry, whether or not it is perceived or understood, clearly defined, or biblically consistent. Pastoral ministry needs to be intentional and purposeful but is driven by a proper understanding of the Scriptures.
How is a philosophy of ministry developed?
A. IMPROPER APPROACHES
- Start with a Focus on Programmes
- Try to duplicate a “model programme.”
Problem: This will lead to frustration or failure, because the specifics of how God chooses to work in any given situation vary depending upon the nature and needs of the people and the uniqueness of each church.
- Stay with an existing program (i.e., we do what we do because we’ve always done it this way, or because it worked at one time).
Problem: This will lead to frustration or failure because people and their needs constantly change.
- Start by Focusing on Needs
- Ask the people what they want.
Problem: When you focus on felt needs, you will always end up with a superficial and socially oriented program.
- Seek to attract people by pleasing them.
Problem: When you focus on felt needs, you will always have a man-centered ministry rather than a God-centered ministry. A person’s perceived needs and real needs are usually antithetical.
- Start by Establishing Goals
- Set goals to achieve “success.”
Problem: When you begin by setting goals, you will always conform your goals to your view of success, whether right or wrong. This can lead to confusing size with success, i.e., big is better. We are called to focus our energies on the depth of our ministry not the breadth.
- Set goals based upon incorrect evaluations of the flock.
Problem: When goals are not based upon “real” needs, even though they may be attainable, they will always lead to superficial Christianity.
B. PROPER APPROACH
It has been said that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. To approach ministry without proper and accurate aim is to miss the intent of the Scripture’s clear admonition to set things in order in the church (Titus 1:5).
THE PILLARS OF A BIBLICAL FOUNDATION:
- A High View of God
- God is holy, righteous, and just (and other perfections).
- We must seek to express His communicable attributes.
e.g., we then must be holy (practical sanctification).
Note: A failure to have a high view of God leads to…
- A toleration of sin
- A focus on man, evidenced in teaching and programs
Result: The church reflects a man-centered ministry that attempts to please peers rather than glorify God.
Questions to consider:
- Do I teach with a focus on promoting God’s holiness or man’s comfort?
- Does our church practice biblical discipline (Matthew 18)?
- Do the people have a reverence for the character of God?
- Do we compromise truth for the sake of pleasing people or maintaining the status quo?
- Practically speaking we live out our view of God. I high view of God should produce a high level of living. If you have a big God you have little problems. However if you have a little God you have bid problems.
[To be continued in the April Issue …