Eric recently posted a comment to one of my "articles," asking what he should do to prepare for vocational ministry. He sparked some thoughts in my mind, and I want to share them.
First, I think there are some things that are obvious for anyone in leadership in the Church or any other Christian organization. One is a measure of theological understanding. By that I mean the leader should understand and live by the basic teachings of Christianity, and have a good measure of knowledge and understanding of the nature and purposes of God. This seems evident to me, but isn't evident in many churches.
There are others that come to mind, but I want to pass over them for now and talk about one of the central principles of effective "ministry" or Christian leadership. And as I write this, it occurs to me that these things apply to anyone who would serve God and know him, not only those in formal leadership positions.
I'm referring to a person's relationship with God, and I want to briefly discuss five points that I think are fundamental to a successful spiritual life.
1. Hear God's voice eagerly
God speaks. In fact some have distinguished him from the multitude of wannabe gods with the title, "The God who speaks." And we should remember, God is not talking to himself. That's reserved to people. God speaks to us, and wants us to hear and understand. He has gone to great lengths to make that happen.
To hear the voice of God is a wonderful thing. He speaks to us in many areas, from Scripture to nature to other people to the still small voice speaking in the quiet of our spirit. He tells us of his love, he gives us instructions, he disciplines us, and more. It's incomprehensible that we would not eagerly seek his voice. He is the very source of life.
But many have not learned that, yet.
2. Obey God's voice wholeheartedly
Obedience is not a popular word in the world of today's America. We prize "freedom" and autonomy, and don't like being on someone else's leash. In truth, we are rebels. However, Jesus equated obedience with love. We cannot say we love God and yet consciously disobey him. And we cannot hope to have a life that honors him, or to have his blessing on our life, if we intentionally refuse to heed his voice.
Remember two things: First, the one who calls us to obedience is not some distant, heartless tyrant. It's the one who has loved us with a passion that is beyond our understanding. It's the one who died so that we might know him.
Second, the goal is not obedience for its own sake. It's only a means to the end, which is intimacy with God. A relationship with him is no different than a relationship with any other person, in this sense: Willful disobedience destroys relationships. Always.
3. Serve God unswervingly
This is related to the previous two, I think. It is our great honor to be chosen as the servants of the Most High God. That, ahead of anything else, should be a focusing and driving factor in making decisions in life. What would God have? That's what we do. It matters not what might seem in our best interest. Our estimation on our best interest is at best based on miniscule, distorted information. God knows and God cares about our best interest. He has long demonstrated that.
So we can with confidence serve him, knowing that there are fewer higher honors, and that in the end, nothing can be better.
4. Honor God unselfishly
We like honor. We like to hear people speak well of us and the things we are a part of. And there is nothing wrong with being recognized for good work, if we remember that the glory is not ours, but God's. We can do nothing except he enables us. Every talent we have is from him. Every dollar we earn is with abilities he gave us. Every church or company we build is with resources he entrusts to us, and must be built to his glory and honor.
Remember, there is no special honor in being a servant who merely does his job. Our job is to represent Jesus and to make disciples in his name. Anything less is disobedience, and by that we dishonor God.
5. Represent Jesus truly
And finally, we come to the issue of whom it is we represent. Years ago, there was a song called, "You Got to Serve Somebody." There is no alternative: We serve God or we serve someone else. There is no neutrality. Paul said that we are the representatives of Jesus (II Corinthians 5).
And the highest form of honor, obedience and service we can offer, the way we can best represent Jesus, is to bring the truth, the love and the grace of God wherever we go in this badly broken world.
As we are channels of God's grace, we represent Jesus. As we demonstrate his truth, we represent Jesus.
And as we represent Jesus, we can ask for nothing better in life.