The Seven Pillars of Ministry
Pillar One: True Ministry is Initiated by God

(These notes have been developed based on draft notes prepared by Tommy Jones, Connection Pastor at Hoffmantown Church)

Introduction:

 This morning, I want to start with a discussion about personal ministry. The personal ministry of each of us as a Believer in Jesus.

What is personal ministry? What is our job description as a Christian?

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. --Matthew 28:19-20
 So what is our job description as a Christian? - To spread the Gospel and to train believers.

What is personal ministry? - How we use our life to carry out the great Commission. More precisely, how we allow God to use our life to carry out the great commission. That is God's will for each of us.

There are some basic understandings, some basic concepts about how we as Christians should carry out God's will in our lives. Someone decided that these principles are basic enough that we might call them Pillars of Ministry. There are a total of seven of these Pillars of Ministry. This morning I want to start with:

Pillar One: True Ministry is Initiated by God

The premise is that it is God's will that we are to be about, not our will. We will build Biblical support for that position this morning.

Consider the story of Stan the homebuilder. He has been asked by an architect to build a home for a couple who will occupy the vacant lot next to him. The architect has told him he has the blueprints and all the necessary work-ups needed for Stan to build the home. The architect knows Stan desires to build the home. He has all tools to build the home. He has the experience and knowledge to build the home. Why, even better, Stan is familiar with the area and the neighborhood.

But Stan, though capable and eager, decides to launch out and build the home he thinks the couple wants. I mean, he has all the tools and qualifications. He's been down the road before...so why not go ahead and build it? Why wait for the blueprints?

Obviously, if Stan builds the home he envisions for the couple, it will end in disaster. The home would not meet the architect's specifications or the couples wishes. It might be a nice home, but it would fall short of meeting the desires of the designer and the owner.

This story highlights what we do in the church more often than we'd like to admit. Armed with the our tools, and having some experience, we launch out to do "ministry" in our own way. There's nothing wrong with the desire, mind you...it's just that our plans were simply not plans of the Master Designer. We must be given the blueprints by the Architect of Life, as well as being supplied with His resources.

Today's lesson focuses on the first of seven pillars of ministry: True Ministry is Initiated by God. We may also say the reverse is true: Ministry initiated by man is false ministry.

Let's begin by laying down a foundation of Biblical truth. Let's look at the following verses one by one and discuss how each verse relates to God initiating His purposes or desires.

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain. --Psalm 127:1
All our work and effort, if not in God's will, is wasted effort.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. --Proverbs 3:5-6
Depend on God instead of yourself and He will show you what to do and how.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." --Isaiah 55:8-9
God is a lot wiser than we are. He knows the big picture, the "rest of the story".
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. --Matthew 16:18
Jesus said he would build the Church. Not Peter, not Wayne, not me and not you.

The Bible tells us that, God has the master plan for life and the ministry of the Church. Our challenge is not to operate out of our good intentions to do the right thing, but to operate in His will, according to his plan, with His strength, under His leadership and direction so that through us He may accomplish His plan.

There is an old adage "the best laid plans go to waste".   What does this mean?   Why do you think things often don't turn out as planned?

Have you ever wondered:

Those are good questions.

At Hoffmantown, our pastors and elders operate from the following understanding:

We should live at the open hand of God...to receive not just marching orders, but marching power...to not only receive the play, but the playbook....to not try to discern what we should do in ministry, but to determine what He wants to do in ministry and be willing vessels of service to receive his instruction and direction. He knows what the church needs. He knows what needs to be emphasized. Moreover, He is willing to share this with those who eagerly seek Him.

Throughout the Bible, we see God initiating His plans and purposes.

Some years back, Dr. Henry Blackaby came out with a book entitled, "Experiencing God". In it, he lists seven realities for experiencing God.

Let's look at two of those seven realities. These two in particular help us get a grip on this idea of God initiating ministry:

1. Even Jesus got his plans from God:

Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. --John 5:19-20
What is Jesus saying? If Jesus looked to Father for what He had to do, shouldn't we look to Jesus?

This is the pattern we live by...we watch to see what Jesus wants to accomplish i n His Church-----He initiates all that needs to happen. His Spirit living in us will show us what He desires. Jesus did not launch out to do His "own" thing, no matter how good it would have been.

Note the ministry lessons coming out the lips of Jesus in the following verses:

Blackaby says: "I believe many people today are seeking God's call ... to an assignment backwards. We teach people to discover their spiritual gifts and then look for an assignment in which they can use their gifts. That can be a frustrating experience for a person looking for their first assignment from God. You see, a spiritual gift is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work through a person in carrying out a God-given assignment. Normally, a person will not know their spiritual giftedness without first receiving an assignment. When God gives us an assignment, the person obeys and God accomplishes what He intended through the person."

2. God Sets the Plan:

All through Scripture, we see God setting the plan. We don't find people dreaming up big dreams for God and then seeking a heavenly nod of approval. Paul, Peter and the other apostles didn't lay out a 10 year ministry plan and say: "OK God...what we have looks pretty good. It seems to be in line with what you've told us. Now, will you help us get it done?"

In fact, Blackaby points out correctly: "the pattern in Scripture is that we submit ourselves to God and we wait until God shows us what He is about to do, or we watch to see what God is doing around us and join him"

Why do you think we are so quick to act and so slow many times to watch and see where God is truly at work? Where do you think that temptation comes from?

How has our fast paced, quick-results culture affected our dependence on hearing from God?

If God is not behind the reason why we do what we do, then what can we expect the result to be?

What can we learn from this? What must we do differently?

Let's get back to Moses----did he or did God deliver the Israelites? God did! But He used Moses to do it. Can you imagine what would have happened if he tried to do this thing on his own?

Plans are not a bad thing-as long as they are God's plans, and not our rush to have a strategy, a program, a plan only creates bigger problems for churches. We work that plan and may see some good thing come out of it, but it never accomplishes God's purpose because it was not His plan to begin with. He must give it. He must initiate it. We are simply parts of the body. He is the Head. He leads and body naturally follows the Head, not the other way around.

What we are to do: Determine where God is at work and modify or adjust our lives to Him. As He confirms His desires and plans for ministry, He also promises to supply what is needed...in fact, He wants to do it Himself. He is simply asking us to join Him in what He wants to do.

Blackaby reminds us: "All the way through Scripture, God takes the initiative. When He comes to a person, He always reveals Himself and His activity. That revelation is always an invitation for the individual to adjust his life to God. None of the people God ever encountered could remain the same after the encounter. They had to make major adjustments in their lives in order to walk obediently with God."

When we are centered on following God, then His desires become our desires. We operate on his timetable, His pace, His purposes. Once God takes the initiative in revealing Himself and His desires for our ministries, He watches to see how we respond to His initiatives. We will either adjust ourselves to Him with willing hearts ready to serve, or we become self-centered and determine what we would like to see happen and operate from a self-focused position.

When we say: "we should do this...we should do that...we need to head this way...we need to begin this...we need to stop that...", consider just how we've come to these conclusions. Has God initiated this or have we? If so, how do we know whether or not it has come from God?

If we are self-centered, we run the risk of confusing God's will with our own. Blackaby reminds us that when we are seeking God's will, mere external indicators can be misleading:

"Circumstances, for instance, cannot always be a clear direction for God's leadership. 'Open' and 'closed doors' are not always indications of God's directions. In seeking God's direction, check to see that prayer, the Scripture, and circumstances agree in the direction you sense God is leading you"

How do we know when God is initiating true ministry? We have discerned His will in it.

How can we discern His will in it then? What God initiates, He communicates

In order for God to initiate ministry, He must communicate what the ministry is:

Let's be clear about how he speaks to us:

  1. Through the Bible, the Word of God - As we read the Bible, the Holy Spirit reveals God's heart, desires and plans. It forms the basis and framework for all truth.
  2. Through Prayer - Prayer brings us before the God of the universe, into the throne room of heaven. The Bible tells us that when we pray the Holy Spirit and Jesus Himself intercedes for us to the Father (Romans 8) As we pray, the Holy Spirit guides us as to what we pray based on what we've read in the Word. Prayer sets the right heart condition to receive God's directions and counsel.
  3. Through the Holy Spirit - "Then God sometimes answers directly in our spirit. The prophet said, 'I will watch and see what he will say in me.' God speaks to me by speaking in me. He can so lay something upon the mind that we are certain of the answer. He can impress something upon our spirits in an unmistakable manner." (D. Martin Lloyd Jones - Faith-Tried and Triumphant)
  4. Through the church - As believers, we have been placed by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ, the church. We are not independent of one another, but rather, interdependent. We can know how we fit and how we are to be involved by the counsel and guidance of others in the body. God has taken the initiative of placing pastors and other leaders in church to give us Biblical direction and teaching. Listen to what others in the body are saying. See how God might be using them as His tool for speaking to you!
  5. Through Circumstances - The Bible helps us evaluate and interpret those circumstances that occur in our lives. If all the other communication channels line up with the circumstances, maybe there is a message there.
Some practical guidelines for knowing the voice of God when He speaks in initiating ministry:

Personal checklist from unknown author:

1. God tends to speak with gentle leadings. God seldom pushes and drives and demands like an aggressive, assertive, used-car salesman. God seldom urges sudden action without giving us time to pray and think through the issues. Try to differentiate between the promptings of God and your drive to fulfill your hurried agenda.

2. God's voice produces freedom. Satan loves to put people in bondage, God loves to set them free. If you are becoming entangled in religious activity, instead of being set free to be what God has created you to be and fulfill those purposes He has designed for you, then perhaps it's time to reevaluate just what you've heard, or think you are hearing.

3. God tends to speak when we are seeking Him. ""Call to me and I will show you great and might things..." Everyone will have an opinion as to what you should do and how you should live your life. Seek to hear from God in His Word and in prayer. Let Him crystallize His will for you. It may take some time, but keep the radar of your heart dialed into God.

4. When God is speaking, there is a sense that everything is under control. God wants us in control of our faculties and decisions. God related that "the spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets" in I Cor.14:32. Paul warns in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 that Satan wants to ensnare and control people. When self and Satan speak, there is an inner sense that something is out of control.

5. God gives specific directions. God does not deliver vague or indistinguishable messages. He is very clear in the Bible as to His thoughts, commands and desires. Some people get confused as to what they think God is saying and don't know what to do. In this case, it is best to do nothing at all. If we are not certain, either God has not spoken or we have not heard clearly. God is not the author of confusion. When He speaks, there is no doubt about what to do.

6. God speaks with 100 percent truth that can be tested by the Bible.

7. God's voice will lead to a deep, abiding sense of peace. The peace of God can be considered like a referee with a whistle. When we are not hearing God clearly, the Holy Spirit blows his whistle to stop the game with a lack of peace and stirring unrest in our hearts and consciences.

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Next week - we will study Pillar 2: What God Initiates He Anoints. He does not just make the plan and give it to us, he facilitates it.