It seems like everyone is looking for the next big thing, particularly in ministry circles; chasing that “secret sauce” that will take them to the magical next level. My inbox fills up with emails all promising a new strategy, available in a new book or online course at a bargain introductory price, but only for a limited time, that will absolutely revolutionize the way I do ministry. In just 7 easy steps all of my ministry problems will go away. It will be the best news I’ve read since, well, the Good News.
I have only been in ministry 20 years but in my experience I am sad to report that, while books and strategies are helpful, there is no such book. If it did exist the speed of change would make it irrelevant by the time we finish reading it! I’ve said all that, and yet, I want you to know there IS a “special sauce” to ministry. It’s not a secret sauce per se, but it can get so buried in between the lines of strategy and vision that we fail to have the same sense of urgency about it.
Now, before I reveal “IT” I want you to know you will probably have two initial reactions that will keep you from drinking deeply of the special sauce.
The first reaction is
“Of course, I already know that.” I hope you know it! However, if you’re like the rest of us your proximity to the truth can often diminish the way you value it. We constantly need to recalibrate.
The second reaction is
“That’s so simple.” Truly, it is simple, but it’s not easy. It’s so incredibly difficult in fact that we are often inclined to look for any other answer.
So, are you ready? Get out a pen and right this down. Tattoo it if you need to. The special sauce to a successful ministry is…
That’s it. That’s the whole thing. The Beginning and The End. I’m not saying that to be cute. It’s not a coffee cup quote. I mean it literally. Jesus. is. Everything.
As ministers then, whether professional or otherwise, our job is two-fold. First, we must make sure our lives are saturated with this truth. We must value Jesus above all. We must make sure everyone knows that we need Jesus… DESPERATELY. Always. Right now most of all. We must expose our own brokenness, constantly tell on ourselves, and be the first to confess both our sin and our dependency on Christ. Leadership in Christ does not mean that we have it all together. It means that we recognize He is holding it all together, including us, and that we are the first to run to Him, openly, publicly, boldly.
At first this might seem terrifying, and it can be, but let me assure you this is the best of news! We don’t have to have all the answers. Jesus does. We don’t have to play the hero or the cool-trendy-hipster role. We don’t have to be the savior of the world. Jesus is. (Don’t let that fly by. Dwell on what beautiful freedom that is!)
Our second task is to make sure nothing else confuses or dilutes that message. My own teams know that I place an incredibly high value on professionalism and quality. They also hear constantly that these things are just a small part of our passionate, loving response to the immeasurable worth of Christ. While we long to make our time worshipping together as glorious as possible we are not confused that we add anything to His worth by our efforts. We will not trust in “chariots or horses,” or songs, or bands, or buffer videos, or games, or sermon titles, or skinny jeans, or haircuts. We will trust in the Name of the Lord our God. He is supremely worthy. Our job is to make sure that everything else is a servant to this task.
Again, this is the greatest news! It means that the effectiveness of our ministry will not ultimately be riding on how we perform or execute. While cultural relevance is important, if we are to experience lasting change it will only be the Holy Spirit’s call that draws and not ours. In this we find that our calling in Jesus is actually a means of grace for we cannot accomplish it without Him. Thanks be to God!
Ingredients matter. We get out what we put in. So in all of our planning and preparing let us make sure that we begin with the Special Sauce. Jesus is all. Everything else is second.
Erik Bledsoe has been an itinerate worship leader and conference speaker for 20 years, including leading musical worship at NTS Camp. He and his wife Betsy, and their two children Henry and Adelaide, are currently planting The Oaks Church just outside of Nashville, TN. You can read more about him at www.erikbledsoe.org.
© 2016, Never The Same