One of the classes during my seminary experience was a course that focused on the ministry of all believers called “Leading and Mobilizing Laity.” The basis of the class was that church leadership is tasked with equipping the people of God for ministry, releasing them to do ministry, and encouraging the body of Christ to function according to the biblical model. Key statements surfaced, such as “It takes all of God’s people to do all of God’s ministry,” and “Every member is a minister.” It was in this course that I read one of my favorite and most transformational books: When There’s No Burning Bush by Eddy Hall and Gary Morsch.
This book addresses six commonly held ministry “myths” that oftentimes keep us from fulfilling our God-given calling. It offers practical stories and exercises, is a very enjoyable read, and points us to a scriptural understanding of ministry. I developed a series of lessons based on the myths that I believe can be transformational for anyone, and especially those of us in the law enforcement profession. We are home/urban missionaries. We venture into the heart of our communities to confront evil, observe the most damaging effects of sin, and assist the distressed and hurting. How, then, should we understand our calling and approach ministry within this context? Here’s a brief summary of each of the lessons. I plan to write more on each one in the future.
Dating back to the times of the Early Church when the term “layman” was first used to refer to the uneducated, untrained masses, many have been deceived into believing that a certain select few are called by God to give or do ministry while the rest of us are simply to receive ministry. The truth is that God calls, gifts, and gives grace to each of us for the purpose of ministry work. In the two-part lesson, “The Real Ministers of Ephesians 4:11-12,” I discuss that calling. In Ephesians 4:8-12, Paul says that Jesus ascended and gave gifts to each person. To some He gave the gifting/calling to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teacher. Those “professional” ministers have the specific purpose of equipping the people of God for ministry work. Part 1 focuses on our calling and the understanding that we are all ministers. Part 2 is directed towards ministry leaders, who must be willing to delegate and release saints to do ministry.
The second myth addresses the thought that the most important and effective ministry happens at church. The truth is that we as the body of Christ are most effective as the church “scattered” rather than the church “gathered.” God has given each of us a place of ministry – our families/home, work, school, gym, or wherever else we frequent. In “Ministering to the Lost,” I examine John 4 and Jesus’ example of ministry to the woman at the well. We are to be passionate about reaching those who do not know Jesus, and many of the best opportunities don’t take place in an altar. The most opportune times happen at a well on the roadside – in the office, on a lunch break, and during the course of daily life as we live out our faith to others. As officers, we come into contact with many who will never go to church or otherwise hear the message of Jesus Christ unless we tell them. The lesson also deals with the importance and reasons for coming together as the church – for corporate worship and witness, being equipped for ministry, receiving vision, and more.
Do you work a secular job? The word “secular” is best defined by what it is not – not holy and not sacred. But the Scriptures clearly tell us that the we as the saints of God (or literally, the holy ones) are a holy nation and royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6). We are also instructed that whatever we do should be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). How then can our work in the place God has ordained for us to work be called secular? In “Ordinary Jobs,” I discuss the story of Peter and John in Acts 3 based upon the definition, “Ministry is divine resources meeting human needs through loving channels to the glory of God.” Our jobs do not get in the way of ministry, but are precisely our place of ministry. More than simply a place of ministry, each of us is gifted with unique skills that can be used as ministry to meet the needs of others. As we begin to see ourselves as ministers, the Holy Spirit can then inspire creativity and a desire for ministry through our work.
Many of our churches are program driven, or as the authors of When There’s No Burning Bush say, our churches emphasize slot filling ministry as opposed to call driven ministry. Because there are positions (slots) to be filled, believers are often tied up doing what is “needed” rather than what God has gifted and called them to do. In “Just Say No,” I discuss a paradigm shift in which ministry should be focused first of all on the family and designed around fulfilling our calling rather than focused on church programs and slot filling. Sometimes we need to say no to being “stretched too thin,” “having too many irons in the fire,” and ministry that is performed out of obligation rather than the joy of serving in our place of calling. To use the metaphor of the church being the body of Christ, why do we make arms do the work of legs instead of being what God has placed/called/gifted them to be?
Fail intelligently, count on making mistakes, and expect rejection, but whatever you do, get out of the boat. The authors address the myth that it’s best to avoid failure and play things safe in ministry by saying, “If we attempt only what we can accomplish in our own strength, we will never fulfill God’s call in our lives.” In “Over Our Heads,” I revisit the story of Peter walking on water with Jesus in an attempt to encourage creativity and inspire a God-sized vision for our lives. As mentioned in Myth 1, overcoming this ministry myth takes action on the part of individuals and church leaders. We must be willing to step out on faith, try new things, and allow the Holy Spirit to use us for the Lord’s purposes. Church leaders must change the default response to “yes.” Rather than creating hurdles, red tape, and skepticism, church leaders must encourage the saints to venture out of their comfort zones and release them to fulfill their ministry potential.
Myth 6: “God Calling? There Must be a Burning Bush.”
“Some Christians have failed to recognize God’s call because they are waiting for the equivalent of a burning bush, a blinding light, or a voice from heaven. They have yet to hear God’s call to ministry, not because God isn’t calling, but because they don’t know what to listen for.” This statement explains the myth that God’s call to ministry only comes in dramatic ways. This lesson helps us discern our calling by focusing not only on spiritual gifts (inventories, etc), but also by three clues: our passion, our abilities, and God’s timing.
It is my belief that revival is coming to the church. The more I reflect on the Scriptures, my life experiences, this book, and most importantly, the voice of the Spirit, I sense that revival will not come in all of the traditional ways – a good preacher, good music, or large crowds. I believe that God is transforming His church and mobilizing an army of ministers that are truly “going into all the world” to reach the lost and disciple believers. The church will facilitate the revival through corporate worship, vision casting, training, and mobilization, but this revival will be instigated by us – the people of God who are “on fire” for God and minister daily to others within our context. In the words of John Wesley, “When you catch on fire, others will come to watch you burn.”