An impossible mission

“I’d like to ask you to tell about your 40+ year ministry at Chatham in five minutes.” I know it sounds like a “Mission Impossible”, but that’s the charge I’ve been given for the Minister’s Conference this Thursday at the Oil Belt Christian Service Camp in Flora.

Mark and I attended the conference last year, and not only was the conference informative and inspiring, it gave me a chance to renew several ministerial acquaintances. Shortly after the conference I received a note from the host of the conference, a classmate of mine from the sixties at Lincoln. Ron was still ministering at the church he had begun serving while in school, and wondered if I’d be interested in serving on a panel with himself and another classmate of ours who also was in a 40+ year ministry at the same church. He said he had received numerous requests for a session at the conference on how ministers stay put in a ministry for the long haul. I quickly agreed, and plans were made for us to each sum up the focus of our ministries, and what we feel made possible such long ministries, in five minutes. Then we’ll open up for questions. I’m really looking forward to it, even though I’m not sure what I’m going to say or what questions will be asked.

It’s no secret that the focus of my ministry in Chatham has been on preaching through the Bible, and on teaching. You would think that would be the universal focus of preachers, but that’s not the case. Young preachers are more often cast into the role of a leader who is expected to lead a congregation to become bigger and more influential. Desiring to grow is obviously not a bad thing, but it can easily degenerate into expectations that measure the success of a ministry by quantifiable results. If a preacher doesn’t produce, he’s expected to leave so someone else can do what he apparently can’t do. Even if the pressure doesn’t come from the congregation, the preacher has been programed to view himself as a failure, at least in that church. The answer is to move on to some place else where he might find success, or to simply get out of the ministry.

Hopefully I can encourage some young ministers to focus on the Word, and see the value in simply being a preacher of the Word who is willing to leave the results of his ministry in the hands of the Lord.

God Bless, Rick

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