…or more aptly, How a Minister Can Change through Growth.
When I was a young soldier stationed in Okinawa, one of the missionaries at the Overseas Christian Servicemen’s Center was a short, middle-aged, energetic, robust and very disciplined man. He was a good mentor with respect to pushing us young military types to be deliberate about our lives. There was no need for him to be concerned about our physical health since the different branches of service in which we served saw to that. His focus was upon our mental and spiritual lives. So he was always challenging us to read good books, to study the Bible, to memorize scripture, to pray and do various other disciplines. He wanted us to change our old ways and grow up in the way of Christ. The downside was that he tended to be legalistic about it. Nevertheless, it was good for us. Since then, those habits he helped ingrain in me left a lasting impression. For example, from those days I have become a voracious reader, something I never was until about that time.
Years later, my wife and I got involved in a networking business. It was through the leadership with whom we interacted that challenged us to continue to stretch ourselves and grow, but to do so in all areas of our lives. Because of those influences, we have been rather intentional about learning, growing and changing. Some years were more rigorous that others; some years we were forced into growth and change because of the severe trials we encountered; some years were not as hard.
Thinking back over the years we found that men and women who were considered successful in their fields were so because they worked hard at stretching their own hearts, minds, and lives. I know there are individuals who just “happened” to fall into financial success or success in other ways due to good circumstances; but for the most part successful people are those who work hard, discipline themselves, push their own limits and purposefully set their sights high and pursued growth and change.
At the same time, there are those who arrive at their comfortable limits and choose to coast in life. The man who followed after our disciplined missionary friend in Okinawa was such a man. He was a “nice” guy, but about as opposite to his predecessor as one could be. And it had a terrible effect on the ministry and the lives of the military men and women who were at the servicemen’s center.
A minister is to grow. He is to be challenged, tried, disciplined and forged into Christ’s man. The apostle Paul makes clear that the spiritual leader who works as an undershepherd to Christ, must be disciplined (Titus 1:8) unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8). We are to press on to the finish line of the call in Christ (Philippians 3:12-14), seeking to win the race set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24), while running with steady endurance (Hebrews 12:1). As ministers, we are to follow Paul’s example and discipline our bodies (1 Corinthians 9:27) into submitting to God’s holy will and way so that in the end we can say with him that we have “fought the good fight, and finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
This being the case, let me propose some general, yet important aspects of a minister’s life which should grow (for example, see Romans 15:14). These questions are designed to provoke you to think and act:
Am I growing spiritually?
1. Am I growing in my prayer life?
Do I pray regularly?
Do my prayers reflect biblical prayers or are they merely a shopping list for God?
What things am I praying for my life?
Am I praying for others?
Do I pray with others (such as at prayer meetings)?
Am I praying with and for my family?
2. Am I growing in worship?
Do I seek to glorify God in all things every day?
Do I have regular, personal times of worship with God?
Am I committed to regular morning worship?
Do I understand, believe, and act upon the biblical teaching that the Lord’s Day is really God’s Day that was set aside to be spent delighting in Him?
3. Enjoyment and fellowship with God
Is God the savior and lord of my life?
Am I a biblical disciple of Jesus Christ or merely someone who is a formal Christian?
Is God at the center of my thoughts, motives and actions?
Do I enjoy Him? Do I delight in the Lord or do I find my happiness in other things?
Am I growing in Christ-like character?
One who is growing and maturing in Christ-like character is a person of “engraved distinctive quality” who remains steadfast in moral excellence. This minister lives a praiseworthy life. He is a person of special quality in whom others willingly place their trust. The godly minister grows in:
1. Discipline and self-control
4. Attitudes, such as
(1) Courage as opposed to fear
(2) Passion as opposed to apathy
(3) Hope, in contrast with negativity
(4) Confidence compared with doubt
(5) Humility against pride
Am I growing in my comprehension?
This has to do with what God wants you to learn and know about him, about yourself, about his creation, and much more. He wants you to grasp his knowledge in order to think his thoughts about all of life and therefore live a life of wisdom and love. To know in this way is to seize and grasp things mentally, and perceive things morally. This requires disciplined study for the gaining of truth and knowledge, and the understanding of the nature, significance and meaning of things; understanding cause and effect, etc. Even more, the Bible calls us to grow in grace and truth with regard to the things of:
3. My area of labor or calling
4. General knowledge
Be a continual learner!
Philip B. Crosby says “There is a theory of human behavior that says people subconsciously retard their own intellectual growth. They come to rely on clichés and habits. Once they reach the age of their own personal comfort with the world, they stop learning and their mind runs on idle for the rest of their days. They may progress organizationally, they may be ambitious and eager, and they may even work night and day. But they learn no more.”
Am I becoming more competent?
All believers are to become more competent in the sense of following, doing and performing God’s will. This is means you have the requisite ability to respond to and meet the challenges of life and ministry. To grow in competency is to be qualified and faithful in the issues and details of life. It means growth to be more effective in relationships, in communication skills, in godly and work performance, and to be able to lead and to get others to follow. Consider then,
1. Am I growing and becoming more skilled in life. This is as aspect of true wisdom (see Proverbs 4:7-8 and 19:18)
2. Am I growing in my talents?
3. Am I growing in the spiritual gifts God has given me?
4. Am I growing in my ability to have healthy relationships through love?
5. Am I growing and changing in my communication skills?
6. Am I advancing in life as a godly man, overall?
7. Am I becoming a more godly and Christ-like husband?
8. Am I becoming a more godly and Christ-like father?
9. Am I growing in the ministry to which I have been called?
Obviously there are many other areas about your life that you could consider or investigate. The bottom-line challenge is this: are you disciplining your life toward godliness so as to become a more complete person in Christ, as well as a more complete minister of Christ?
D. Thomas Owsley