My observation of the current climate of ministry, particularly, in the western world is that it is saturated by trends and techniques rather than by the power of the Gospel. In light of this, what makes ministry effective?
Does the right program make ministry effective? If you run the right seeker sensitive service, evangelistic program, recovery program and community social program, will you get the results you are looking for? I’m not against programs at all. I think they can be very helpful and in many cases are needed to compliment the mission of the local church but I don’t think they help ministry be most effective.
Does eye-catching and compelling marketing make ministry effective? Well, I think good marketing helps but plenty of churches and ministries have great marketing that no-one is really paying attention to. At Activate we have a marketing director and take this area of our church seriously with the resources God has entrusted us with but when I started the church with 13 people and no budget in our lounge room, we needed something more than slick marketing.
Does ministry credentials make ministry effective? Do I really have to answer this question? Give me a break.
Does being connected to influential people make ministry effective? Well, as they say, it’s not what you know but who you know. How does this line of reasoning work for a pastor in a 3rd world country who is isolated and neither connected to people of influence or even basic technology? There are many stories of incredible ministry happening in isolated regions where God breaks out in a powerful way, without the latest and greatest rock star preacher traveling through.
Does theological knowledge make ministry effective? Now, personally, this is something very close to my heart because I do believe to my core that our theology (the way we think and talk about God) affects everything we do, however, I know plenty of people who have high IQ’s with more theological degrees than a thermometer and couldn’t share their faith with a stranger while stuck with them in a wet paper bag.
Does a ‘spirit of excellence’ make ministry effective? Presenting things well is a great and important goal to have but you can have the form (external presentation) without the power and nothing change. So what?
So, what makes ministry effective? Consider Jesus disciples. They spent approximately 3 years with Jesus, learning, observing and practicing ministry with the master in the closest possible way and yet Jesus still told them to wait in Jerusalem until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 follows this up by saying, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
Unfortunately, we often mistakenly think that having power in our ministry means we ought to see results like Billy Graham or Smith Wiggles-worth but it is not so. The local church pastor who has a gift-mix of leadership, teaching and wisdom needs the demonstration of the power of the Gospel in their ministry just as much as the healing evangelist in the revival tent.
The Apostle Paul said, “The kingdom of God does not consist of talk but of power… Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power… I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (Holy Bible, ESV)
What makes ministry effective is the power of the Spirit working through the power of the Gospel in our lives. Martyn Lloyd Jones says it like this in his Tour De Force on ‘Preaching and Preachers’, “The addition of the power of the Holy Ghost, (to God’s Word) is what ultimately makes preaching effective. This is what produces converts and creates churches, and builds up churches – power, Holy Ghost, and much assurance.”