“Chlorophyll,” a green pigment, comes from two Greek words that mean “green” and “leaf.” Chlorophyll allows for photosynthesis to take place — a plant’s ability to absorb energy from light and use that energy to cause growth.
If we had to pick a color for Christmas, it might be green because of all the greenery we see — Christmas trees, holly, mistletoe, and evergreen garlands gracing banisters and mantels. All that greenery is there because of chlorophyll — the energy-producing growth factor in plants. So when we decorate with greenery this Christmas it can remind us to ask, “How can I grow in Christ this Christmas season? What can be my spiritual chlorophyll?” No one needs reminding of how busy Christmas can be, crowding out quiet time for prayer and Bible study. Assuming we maintain those disciplines, what can we do to reach higher and farther — to actually grow? Consider looking for opportunities to do what Christ came into the world to do: to serve others in love (Mark 10:45).
Every time we deny ourselves in order to serve someone else, we grow in Christ. Make that a goal this Christmas.
He had just finished working the first shift at A Hunt Club and was wrapping up some paperwork when one of the bar’s dancers appeared outside Bekkela’s office door.
“I promised my mom to tell you that she and her friends are praying for you,” he recalls her saying.
While talk of Christianity was considered taboo and mocked in the Bekkela family, Aaron thanked the dancer’s mother, mentally dismissing interest in her church.
As a strip club owner, Bekkela had no business inside a church—unless it was a business deal with the leadership, he would later discover.
In his 20s at the time, Bekkela made good money at the club as the youngest of seven children, and he enjoyed the freedom to go on hunting trips with his brothers whenever he wanted. The smell of a locker room, perfume, cigarettes and booze had been with him since age 12.
Bekkela’s comfort with working at a strip club clashed with the opinions of others who were, in his words, “very religious but anything but Christian.” He suspected that the praying mother was like others he’d met.
His own mother, who had turned to religion during Bekkela’s senior year in high school, announced plans to divorce her husband, who was running the bar. After the marriage ended, Bekkela noticed that his mother’s faith had produced positive changes in her.
After his father died in 2009, Bekkela and a brother took over the bar and, a short time later, another brother gave Bekkela a Bible. About the same time, Bekkela and his wife, Stacy, received fliers from a local church, inviting first-time visitors.
By the time the second flier arrived at the Bekkela’s comfortable hillside home, Aaron had read some of his new Bible, and he admitted interest in the church’s invitation to visit.
“What? Am I going to ignite in the seat?” he asked Stacy.
When fire and brimstone didn’t rain down on Bekkela’s head, he warmed further to the idea of visiting the church again. Three pastors welcomed Bekkela, one talking with him as though his business was on the up and up. Another invited Bekkela to a Bible study, no questions asked. The reception gradually shattered Bekkela’s earlier negative perceptions resulting from “bump-ins” with religious people.
Today, the 43-year-old Bekkela repeats the praying mother’s words she offered 15 years ago when talking about his journey from the strip club into church and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as how he persuaded an Assemblies of God congregation in Fort Collins to buy A Hunt Club’s building and property in the fall of 2013.
As a new believer ashamed, broken and humiliated by his past, Bekkela managed to transfer sole ownership of the strip club to his brother while remaining the legal owner of the property in 2009. Still he wanted out completely so that he could begin anew, be baptized in water and enroll in a Christian university.
Thinking the building and land suitable for a church, Bekkela approached leaders of several area churches, offering to sell them A Hunt Club’s property.
“I got a lot of ‘That’s good’ and ‘We’ll pray for you,’” Bekkela says. “I couldn’t help [but] believe there was one out there, or a group of churches that could get it done.”
In 2010, Bekkela approached, unbeknownst to him, the home church of the praying mother he’d learned about years ago. His offer remained the same: sell A Hunt Club’s building and land to the church.
“It was really touching to me to see how God was so real in Aaron,” says Dary Northrop, senior pastor at Timberline Church. “He was so tenderhearted, so broken by all this.”
Northrop and another Timberline leader, Executive Pastor Rob Cowles, were moved by Bekkela’s persistence in trying to sell the land and building to a church. When the two of them met Bekkela at the club in the first half of 2013 to discuss his aim to sell the bar, Cowles surprised himself with what he told Northrop and Bekkela.
“I want to do this, and I have to lead it,” Cowles said.
That declaration stirred Northrop and the church’s membership to buy the strip club in late 2013 and grant Cowles leadership of the Genesis Project church plant when it opens in mid-2014.
“The thing I see about this building is it’s a place where a lot of dreams died and a place where we can seem them be reborn,” Cowles says.
Like the club destroyed the lives of many patrons and some dancers, Cowles believes the Genesis Project is a metaphor for new beginnings in the lives of people.
“Our mission is to create space for people to discover new beginnings in Jesus, who makes all things new. We want to serve the most underserved, broken people, the ones who don’t ‘do church,’” Cowles says.
Besides a 200-seat worship center, the 7,200-square-foot building will house a coffee shop and a commercial kitchen, where professional chefs will provide meals for those who need them and train people for culinary careers.
The Genesis Project shares the DNA of another church by the same name in Ogden, Utah. Both churches seek to meet emotional, physical and spiritual needs. In Fort Collins, the Genesis Project will provide classroom space for instruction in English as a second language. A ministry area for children is also envisioned.
The Ogden church gave the Genesis Project $5,000 to support the remodel and future operating expenses of the building, and another church in Loveland, Colo.—Resurrection Fellowship—offered $13,600 for startup costs. The latter was one of the churches Bekkela approached about purchasing the the strip club.
“When I heard about this, I knew right away this story was bigger than one church,” says Senior Pastor Jonathan Wiggins. “This is a kingdom story.”
“The conversion of a strip club into a church devoted to restoring families is something every believer should celebrate,” says Wiggins, who, in 2011, befriended a controversial artist much like area pastors and churches have supported Bekkela.
“We felt compelled to support this kingdom initiative and look forward to the countless testimonies that will result,” Wiggins says.
Bekkela, who is an internship and a couple classes away from a master’s degree in biblical counseling from Colorado Christian University, believes in the Genesis Project’s mission to restore broken lives.
“When you realize that you’ve poisoned a community, it’s hard to accept,” Bekkela says. “I know that God has paid my debt, but I still feel like I owe a debt.”
Bekkela will get a chance to repay that debt by investing in the lives of people his club destroyed when the Genesis Project opens. When Bekkela found the woman who invested in him through prayer nearly 20 years ago, he offered her his heartfelt thanks.
Does man have a free will? This question is one of the most frequently asked questions of theology. At times, it is not voiced as a question but as an objection to the whole idea of a sovereign God.
At the heart of the problem is the definition of free will. What are we saying when we assert that man has a free will? Stated briefly, free will simply means that man has the ability to choose what he wants. Such ability requires the presence of a mind, a will, and a desire. If these faculties are present and functioning in a man, that man has a free will.
Free will does not mean that man can choose to do anything he pleases and necessarily succeed. We may choose to fly without the aid of mechanical devices. We can fall through the air by ourselves, but we cannot fly through it. We lack the necessary natural equipment (in this case, wings) to fly. This does not mean, however, that we are not free. It does mean that our “freedom” is limited by our natural physical limitations. My will may be outvoted by the will of a majority or by some higher power. Such conflicting power does not eliminate my freedom but may surely impose limits on it.
One of the most important limits on my freedom is myself. If we examine the workings of the will closely we run into a point of irony that is often overlooked in discussions about free will. The point is this: Not only may I choose what I want, I must choose what I want if my choice is really to be free. Choice is made according to desire. Without desire there could be no free choice—certainly no moral choice.
Coram Deo: Living in the Presence of God
God gave you a free will to choose. You choose according to your desires. Will your present desires lead to wise choices for the future?
For Further Study
Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”
Joshua 24:15: “And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve theLord.”
Psalm 25:12: “Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He teach in the way He chooses.”
When I was a freshman at UNC-Chapel Hill, my campus staff worker for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship approached me, asking if I would like to meet on a weekly basis over the course of the semester. Over the next three years, Deanne mentored me on a variety of topics from relationships to ministry to Bible study. Her example of being an intentional discipler has been invaluable to me. As I reflect back on our times together, five important principles emerge.As you grasp the importance of being intentional about the way you pursue Christ and help others to do the same, consider these principles before you begin a structured type of mentoring relationship. These should help to set expectations and provide a shared vision for your time together.
Principle #1: Set a scheduled meeting time and location.
When setting up a more formal type of mentoring relationship, it is important to get your calendars out and find a regular time to meet that works for you both. When I was in college, Deanne and I met every week at the same pizza place on campus. Our waiter, Joey, knew that we would be there every Tuesday and always greeted us with a welcoming smile. The consistency of our relationship allowed us to build trust and awareness of what was going on in each other’s lives.
Outside of college, most of us will have difficulty meeting on a weekly basis. I usually try to meet with the women I mentor once a month. If time permits, every other week would be a good option for a regularly scheduled meeting. If possible, set a regular day and time of the month (e.g. the second Tuesday of each month or every other Wednesday). The more consistent the meeting time and location, the more likely the relationship will have opportunity to grow.
Principle #2: Plan the duration of time you will meet together.
When Deanne first approached me about mentoring, she asked if we could meet weekly for the fall semester. She wisely understood that mentoring relationships are not always a good fit and that time commitments often change for a variety of reasons. Setting a fixed duration for our meeting time provided both of us the opportunity to reevaluate at the end of the semester. I understood that she might need to invest her time elsewhere and she realized that my school schedule might change so that I could no longer meet at our regular time. Thankfully, we were able to continue our relationship over the course of three years. Just before my senior year of college she got married and moved to a new city, so we could no longer meet on a regular basis.
I usually counsel women to plan to meet once a month over the course of a year or every other week for six months. If the relationship is going well, it is easy to extend the time together for another six months or year. However, if schedules change or the mentoring is not proving beneficial, this provides a natural end to a regular meeting time. It does not mean that the relationship ends, just that the consistency of times together may decrease. I find this principle to be one of the most important to discuss early on, in order to prevent hurt feelings or unrealized expectations.
Principle #3: Plan what you will study.
It is also important to clarify what you will do in your time together so that both parties are prepared. You may read a chapter of a particular book or discuss certain questions for accountability. I recommend having something to help guide your conversations. It is quite easy to simply “catch up” and discuss life circumstances without every truly going deeper and knowing God in more intimate ways. In my next article, I will discuss some keys to well-balanced discipleship that will hopefully provide helpful direction as you consider what to study in your time together.
Principle #4: Initiate social times together.
Deanne and I met regularly for our meetings, but we also enjoyed social times together outside of our Tuesday lunches. I saw her each week at our large group meeting and she would invite me to hang out with her while stuffing support envelopes or to go to see a movie together. These were times when we built our friendship informally that blessed our more intentional times together.
If you are only meeting once a month and rarely see one another outside of your time together, it may prove difficult to develop an open and honest relationship that is productive for spiritual growth. It is important to find informal times when the two of you can enjoy each other’s company. It might be riding together to a church retreat, volunteering on the same committee, enjoying a home-cooked meal, or walking together one morning. Finding ways to spend time with one another will build the relationship in encouraging ways.
Principle #5: Pray for one another.
I find prayer to be one of the most important aspects of any mentoring relationship. Each time you meet together, make sure to each share ways you can pray for one another. It is helpful for the mentor to share his or her prayer requests, as well as the mentee. Understanding that matureChristians still struggle and have prayer needs is an important lesson for those they are mentoring. It allows the younger believer to enter into and hear the struggles of their mentor. Being open and honest before the person you mentor may be the very thing she needs to allow her to open up with you in deeper ways.
One of the most intimidating things about entering into a mentoring relationship is the fear of failure. Openly communicating about expectations and considering these principles can help to begin a relationship that will bless both participants. This type of discipleship builds the church in powerful ways. Be encouraged – mentoring relationships are worth the time, energy, effort and thoughtfulness you put into them. Melissa Kruger serves as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012). Her husband Mike is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary, and they have three children. You can follow her on Twitter@MelissaBKruger.
Pastors typically—and hopefully—spend much time in the Bible. That is good; Bible reading should be a high priority. Many pastors spend much time reading Christian books, particularly weighty books on theology and doctrine. That, too, is good and should be a priority for the pastor.
But should pastors read secular books? I do believe there are a number of secular books that would truly be good resources for the pastor. There are three business books I regularly encourage pastors to read. Those who lead our churches unfortunately have little leadership training. These three classics are incredible leadership resources for pastors to savor and read slowly.
Probably the best book on change leadership, this book has not lost any of its punch since it was first published in 1996. Every pastor will lead a congregation to some type of change. Kotter offers an eight-step process for leading change in any organization, including a local congregation. This book became a precursor to other books on change and innovation.
Though this book was published in 2001, it continues to be a best-seller today. Every chapter has valuable insights for the pastor, but the chapter on Level 5 Leadership is my favorite. Though Collins makes no claims of being a Christian, there is much about this book that has biblical themes throughout. A pastor will find this book invaluable for both organizational leadership as well as personal leadership development.
There are probably 25 business books I could recommend to pastors. But these three are the only ones in that genre that I read every year. And every time I read the books again, I learn something new.
I would love to hear what you think of these three books. I would also like to hear about any secular business or leadership books you would recommend for pastors.
Twenty-nine years ago, I was looking for a creative outlet as a stay-at-home mom. Since then, God has turned my hobby into a thriving enterprise.
When I was in high school, I thought I was going to be a rock star, but in 1968 God revealed to me that He had other plans. After graduating from the University of Mississippi, I taught school for a while and then stayed home after my second child was born.
I was happy and fulfilled with my family, but there was something missing—something I longed to do—something creative. I began to look for an outlet.
My search led me to begin “fooling around” with ceramics at my kitchen table. Soon my experimenting became an adventure, and I now have a company that manufactures hand-painted dinnerware and accessories in Ridgeland, Miss.—with 110 employees!
It was 1979 when I began pursuing my new career. In the 1980s I took a leap of faith and displayed my pottery at the Flea Market in Canton, Miss. Going into this experience, I reflected on Proverbs 3:5-6 and applied this passage to my situation, trusting in the Lord with all my heart and not relying on my own understanding. The result—success—and Gail Pittman Inc. was born.
By 1986 I had outgrown my work space at home, and my husband encouraged me to purchase an 1,800-square-foot building in Ridgeland as a studio. I read the book of Jeremiah for inspiration, memorizing Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” After only three months, our building was too small, and in February 1988, we moved into a 7,800-square-foot studio.
The Lord continued to bless me and my small staff, and in 1992 we moved into a new 26,000-square-foot factory in Ridgeland with an increased staff of 80 artisans. In 1994, Gail Pittman Inc. had the privilege of being named one of Inc. magazine’s 500 fastest-growing private companies. Then we expanded for the fifth time into more than 50,000 square feet in our factory.
How did we grow so quickly? What is the secret to our success? The “secret” is not really a secret at all: We submit everything to God. Every time we have to make a decision, whether it is related to design, personnel or a pending expansion, we pray about it as a company—and whatever God tells us to do, we do.
Also, I depend on God continually for wisdom to determine what is important and what isn’t. I want to keep my priorities straight, making certain my husband and children come before my work responsibilities.
In addition, I invest spiritually in my employees. I believe it is my Christian responsibility to afford them the very best possible opportunity to grow in their faith. For this reason, every Wednesday morning employees have the opportunity to attend a company Bible study that is led by Jim Doremus, one of the ministers from First Baptist Church of Jackson, Miss.
Everyone involved in our company is invited to attend, and for many, this Bible study is the highlight of their week. We sing, share joys, hurts, and prayer concerns, and go to God together.
Serving the community is also important to me and the employees at Gail Pittman Inc. We helped build a Habitat for Humanity House in Jackson and participated in the Salvation Army‘s “Souper Sunday,” for which we donated soup bowls. We also helped raise funds for the Salvation Army and its local ministries.
Other than listening to God, following His directives, and caring for my family, employees and community, there are a few guidelines I’ve learned to follow through the years to help my business grow. These are the guidelines, or tips, I give others when they ask how I did it:
First of all, define what success is for you. Decide what you value, and set your goals accordingly. Keep in mind that the meaning of success is different for different people. You can’t set your business objectives by what others consider success.
Success can be defined in a variety of ways–from sales growth to employee retention to having a strong corporate culture. But don’t let money be your only measure of success. Many people who make a lot of money never feel satisfied with their professions.
Be True to Yourself
Be true to what you really believe. Pray about decisions, and ask God to help you make the right ones.
When I am facing a particularly difficult decision, I depend on my deepest held beliefs to guide me in my choice. I know I cannot compromise on certain principles, and that makes a lot of decisions easier.
Keep Your Passion
Keep the passion alive that got you started in business. This will help you stay focused.
In my case, when I’m stretched too thin or feel down from the weight of running a business, I experiment with new patterns. Since designing is my passion, it renews my love for what I’m doing and reminds me why I’m in business.
As you grow, stay focused on the dream set before you. Instead of competing with other people, compete with yourself to be better than yesterday. Keeping my mind on what I do best rather than on how many people are trying to copy my patterns gives me the energy and the impetus to improve on everything I create.
Be Ready for the Next Step
If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying; it’s that simple. You must always be prepared to take the next step.
We recently had an opportunity to create a private label pattern for a restaurant, something we had never before even contemplated. But we took the risk, and it turned out to be a wonderful growth opportunity for the company.
As your business grows, you will need to add people to help you. Wise people know where their ability ends and someone else’s begins.
Recognize That the Hardest Place to Stay Is at the Top
Awards and achievements are great scorecards, but don’t dwell on them. It’s healthy to enjoy them and feel proud of them, but then put them up on a shelf and move on. If winning an award becomes the most important thing, then there is nothing to achieve once the award is won. Besides, next year someone else may be winning it.
Build a Support Network
Surround yourself with a support network of people who truly believe in you. Even when I was selling my pieces just to friends and relatives, my husband always believed in me and never once laughed at my desire to have my own pottery business, although I had never taken an art or business class. Your support network can be anyone who believes in you and your dream and who will encourage you to reach your potential in spite of the obstacles others see.
Set Your Priorities
One lesson I learned early is that you can have it all, as long as you remember you don’t have to do it all.
When my children were young, I decided we would always have dinner together as a family. Many nights we had take-out or went out. Buying dinner cost a little more, but it allowed me to keep my family first.
Now, even though my youngest child is in college, I still make sure I’m there when one of my children needs me. My daughter was recently in a contest at college, and I left a trade show to fly to see her and then flew back to the show when the contest was over. It was hectic, but being there for my daughter was very important to me.
You don’t have to choose between family and career, but sometimes you have to be creative in how you balance them.
Balance your life and your business. It’s often hard, but it can be done so you succeed in both.
When my children were small, I stayed home and started my business slowly, designing pottery at my kitchen table. It gave me time to enjoy my children and my pottery. As my children grew, so did my business.
Today, my children are grown and on their own so I’ve got more time to devote to my business. The result is that my business is taking off at a time when I am able to keep up with its growth.
Whatever you decide to do with your business, make sure it stays fun. I often hear women make comments such as, “I work in insurance, but I love to throw dinner parties.” If this is your situation, then become a caterer or an event planner!
Realize that you can make money doing what you love. And if you do what you love, then you’re going to love what you do every day.
Also, remember to have a life outside your business, with family first and then friends. It takes a lifetime to cultivate friendships, and you could lose them if you don’t make time to enjoy them. You may also lose your perspective!
The Lord continues to bless me and my company. We now have showrooms in Atlanta and Dallas and a display at the New York Gift Fair in the Javits Center. I am privileged that my love for painting and pottery has transformed into a flourishing regional business.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow, and I trust Him to do with my business as He sees fit–and to work in me as He works in it. May He do the same for you.
Gail Pittmanis an artist who turned a love for painting and pottery into a flourishing corporation, Gail Pittman Inc. Her dinnerware, home accessories and collectibles are sold in specialty gift stores throughout the United States and Canada.
In 1950, less than ten percent of American households were made up of just one person; now the number is twenty-seven percent. We depend on cell phones and computers to stay connected, and that’s why we panic when our Internet goes out or we lose our phone. Our society tends toward isolation, and one of the wonders of sociology is why neighbors who live miles apart in rural areas feel closer than apartment dwellers in major cities.
Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but loneliness can be an impetus to making changes in our lives. If we feel disconnected from others, we can find ways to help others who feel that way too. Often the best way is to become more involved at church. When you attend a Bible study or small group, volunteer in your congregation, pray for those in the nearby pews, and work shoulder-to-shoulder with other saints, it involves you in the family of God. It’s hard to feel disconnected while making those efforts.
Don’t sit around feeling lonely. Find someone to bless today.
A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.
Abigail Van Buren
Teaching people about Jesus through the Scriptures is one of my favorite things to do. But over the years, I’ve discovered bad habits that I had to overcome.
If you teach at all, I’d guess that you struggle with things like this too. So I thought it might be helpful to list a few things we tend to do that I believe to be outside of our “job description” as teachers.
As a teacher your job is not to …
1. Give a book report. Many times when we are preparing a message, we will read books and commentaries. We then begin working out a flow of thought by organizing all the information we obtained. And if we’re not careful, we end up giving little more than a book report to those we are teaching. We must remember that this is not our job.
Studying what God has revealed to other people about about a passage or topic can be good to do in many regards, but I would suggest that great caution should be taken to make sure that our study does not hinder us from prayerfully considering what God wants us to say, personally. For me, I had to stop beginning my preparation by reading other sources.
Instead, I now begin with prayer and personally walking through the Bible study methods I teach others—and then look at resources to support or confront the things I’ve learned from my personal study.
2.Conform behavior. If our messages are not applicable to the lives of those we teach, we are wasting our time. But if we’re not careful, our desire to be practical can easily cause us to simply teach proper behavior. There is a fine line here to watch carefully. I’d suggest our job isn’t to get people to do things but rather to help them understand, love and enjoy Jesus.
Written by Chuck Bomar/For More Than Dodgeball
Chuck Bomar planted and is lead pastor of Colossae Church in Portland, Ore. He is also founder of both CollegeLeader and iampeople. He is author of six books, with the most recent being the highly anticipated work Better Off Without Jesus.
September may be back-to-school time, but kids aren’t the only ones whose schedules gear up in the fall. Summer vacations are a memory. Businesses focus on projects that languished over the summer. Churches mobilize their ministry programs. Families turn their attention from vacations to home repairs and major purchases.
If that isn’t enough, toss in the holidays. Halloween is just around the bend, Thanksgiving a mere four weeks later. Then there’s the final lap into Christmas and New Year’s Day. Four months of non-stop activity with barely a moment to catch our breath. September isn’t just another month on the calendar. It’s the starting line of a marathon.
September is also when I return to teaching an annual Bible study. Nine months of volunteering to teach a weekly class of 180+ women. Nine months of training a group of leaders to lead in their respective roles. Nine months of study and preparation, only to begin again the following year.
It’s easy for me to feel like a ministry machine or a plane on autopilot. It’s also easy for the leaders who work with me to think about passing on their commitments. A reduced ministry with a smaller bite out of their schedules can look very attractive at the start of a new year.
Maybe you’re also thinking about stepping away from a commitment you’ve made as you face a new ministry season. Before you do, keep reading.
I’ve learned from experience that combating ministry burnout is a combination of stepping out andleaning in. But the stepping out isn’t what you might think. Consider these ten steps to turn ministry burnout into ministry joy:
Guilt can be powerful. However, when it comes to ministry, it’s the wrong motivator. Guilt is effective in the short term because it causes us to seek the approval of others, including God. But guilt leads to resentment. Ministry that flows from the wellspring of gratitude encourages both us and the people we serve.
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28ESV).
2. Step out of serving on autopilot.
Lean in to being intentional about ministry activity.
When I first began driving a car with manual transmission, I learned the advantages of coasting in neutral gear. But coasting in ministry means we’re not fully engaged. God uses ministry as much for our own spiritual growth as for the growth of others. Are we willing to intentionally press on?
“Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1).
3. Step out of seeing ministry as a task.
Lean in to focusing on the people for whom Christ died.
Someone once said this Christian life would be a piece of cake if it weren’t for all the people. People can be difficult, needy, and messy. It’s simpler to view ministry as a series of tasks—items on a to-do list—rather than a process of growing relationships. But then I remember that it was for messy people, including me, that Christ died.
4. Step out of cutting corners to make ministry convenient.
Lean in to remembering who you really serve.
Who’s going to know? That’s the whisper of my heart when I’m tempted to take a short cut in my ministry. People may not know or care, but ultimately, I’m not serving them. God knows…and He cares.
“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (Ephesians 6:7).
5. Step out of relying on past Bible study or studying only in preparation to lead.
Lean in to a daily time of refreshing as you meet God in His Word.
I have bookshelves bursting with reference volumes. My computer contains files filled with previous lessons. But if I don’t continually spend time in God’s Word for my own growth, the well will run dry and I will have nothing to offer those I teach.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
6. Step out of criticism for those who lead you in ministry.
Lean in to praying daily for your leaders, for God to equip and direct them.
Criticism comes naturally, doesn’t it? It’s easy to point out another person’s flaws, especially if they’re in a position of leadership. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for honest, gracious feedback. But let’s start with prayer and forgiveness before we “speak the truth in love.”
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
7. Step out of thinking what you share applies only to other people.
Lean in to applying your teaching or other aspects of your ministry, to your own life.
How many times have we heard a message and thought, “I wish ______ heard this!” Fill in the blank: parent, spouse, sibling, child. We can fall into a similar trap when it comes to our own ministries. Truths and applications aren’t just for those we serve. I’ve often found God uses the material I’m teaching to speak to my own heart before I present it to others.
“A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher”(Luke 6:40).
8. Step out of allowing ministry to consume you.
Lean in to being a good steward of your health and your family.
But it’s for the Lord! Aren’t we supposed to put God ahead of our family and our health? Yes, God should be our first priority, but God and ministry are not the same. When we place Him first, He will show us how to balance our time and our attentions to ministry, health, and family in the best way to glorify Him.
“The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights…” (I Kings 19:7-8).
9. Step out of drawing on your own reserves.
Lean in to depending on God to strengthen you for your task.
Christians often speak of relying on the Lord. We quote verses such as Philippians 4:13 “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (NLT). But saying it isn’t enough. True success in ministry rests on our dependence on the One who calls us, equips us, and sustains us.
Pride is often described as the first sin. It’s one of the sneakier sins, too. People will tell us how wonderful we are to serve the Lord despite the sacrifices. They’ll thank us for allowing God to use us. They will tell other people about our ministry. Problem is, we find ourselves puffing up a bit more with each new compliment. The antidote to pride is simple. Remember that Christ didn’t just die for other people’s sin—He died for your sin and mine, too. There is nothing more humbling than that.
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6 ESV).
Of course, God knows we’re often motivated by reward, so He has that covered, as well. The writer of Hebrews tells us:
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Hebrews 6:10 NIV).
Following these ten steps (and remembering the reward, too!) helps maintain contagious joy in ministry. It also refocuses our perspective on the privilege of serving the Savior who first served us. May these steps be helpful to you as you enter a new season of service.
During my freshman year of high school, my older brother kept trying to convince me to come to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) with him. He was a senior and while I found it nice that he was actually inviting me to hang out with his friends, I had no desire to go to a big group meeting with him. Eventually, he persuaded me to come and slowly I became a regular attender at the meetings. Our FCA advisor was a young math teacher named Tracy. She was energetic and fun, as well as discerning and wise.
Both Tracy and her husband came to all of our weekly meetings and invested their time and energy into sharing the gospel with students. Over the next three years, I spent hours after school in her classroom planning events and working on Bible studies. We had ski retreats and beach retreats, as well as summer fellowship meetings.
By my senior year, I would often skip going off campus with my friends for lunch and just bring my sandwich up to her room for a chat. Her advice on dating, marriage, and raising children blessed me in countless ways and prepared me for life after high school. The greatest way she encouraged me through those years was by pointing me to God’s word in an effort to grow my faith.
Tracy was my first spiritual mentor. Neither she nor I would have called her that at the time. Our relationship was one that just happened as she chose to invest in the lives of students at the public high school where she taught. For me, she put shape to what it looks like to be a Christian woman. She challenged my ideas on what to wear, what to say and how to live a godly life. She put flesh on the gospel and lived it in front of me so that I could learn from her example.
Tracy greatly impacted my life as she was faithfully following Jesus in her own life. God called her to work in a large public school and she chose to invest well where He had placed her. She opened her classroom, her home and her heart to love students with the message of the gospel.
As we consider mentoring, it is important to realize that Christians have the power to greatly influence others simply by living faithful lives wherever God calls them. In fact, a large percentage of mentoring happens incidentally as we go about our days. Our places of employment, social gatherings, and neighborhoods offer opportunities in which we can faithfully mentor others without a regularly scheduled meeting or curriculum. By sharing Biblical truths and wisdom, we influence others by putting shape to what it means to live the Christian life. The advice we speak, the encouragement we share and the care we give are means by which God can work to spur on the faith of a younger believer.
Just before his death, Jesus spoke the following words to his disciples, saying:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15: 4 -5
If we want to live lives that informally mentor others, the most important thing we can do is to spend time with Jesus. One of Tracy’s most impactful statements to me was her continual reminder, “You can’t lead others to Jesus if you’re not meeting with Him yourself.” She taught me that the greatest strength of a mentor is not their personality, their insight or their boldness. The strength of a mentor is their connection to Jesus. Christ provides the nourishment, and we bear the fruit. The wisdom and insights gained as our minds are renewed by time in the word and prayer will be used to encourage others. The power of influence is Christ in us, overflowing to others.