Discovering the True Path to Ministry Success

Discovering the True Path to Ministry Success

Have you ever thought you were doing something right, only to be disappointed with the results? We’ve all heard of “easy” ways to lose weight without having to change our diets, as well as the “secret” to earning loads of money by barely working. If you’ve ever tried either of these things, you’ve probably found that these gimmicks rarely deliver on their promises.

The Temptation of Modern Ministry Tactics

In a similar way, ministry leaders like me are often tempted to think that by relying on technology and recently developed church growth tactics, we can see steadier growth and more meaningful discipleship. However, it doesn’t always end up the way we predicted. I’ve discovered this firsthand.
Years ago, I was called to be the lead pastor of a strong, well-established church. This was my first opportunity to lead at this level, and I was excited. In a way, I felt like I had been preparing for a moment like this and the time had finally come.
Immediately, I went to work building a staff and implementing the same programs and initiatives we’d had in my previous church. The general morale began to flourish, overall attitudes were good, and the people seemed to appreciate my leadership. But as time went by, I noticed that none of my strategies were working to actually grow the church. My proverbial bag of church growth tricks was empty, and I wasn’t seeing the results I expected.

A Season of Prayer and Self-Examination

Frustrated, I dove into a season where I spent prolonged time in prayer and self-examination. I started asking a lot of why questions:
  • Why was our church not growing numerically?
  • Why were we ineffective in reaching the neighborhood around the church building?
  • Why didn’t our members seem to be growing spiritually?
  • Why did there seem to be a lack of passion for prayer and obeying God’s Word?
  • Why was worship seen as something to be observed and not a way of life?
  • Why was there an indifference to reaching the lost or planting a church?
  • Why do we do ministry the way we do it?
  • Why does our church even exist?
  • Why would I give the rest of my life to leading a church?

Realizing the Need for a New Perspective

Until this point, I had been focusing on what other successful ministries and pastors were doing because I wanted to attain the successes they seemed to be having. I wanted to be in-the-know on which ministries were growing, what strategies were trending, and how I could implement them.
I didn’t see it then, but it was this exact mindset that kept me stuck and frustrated. As I sought God, he made it clear to me that Jesus already had an effective way of doing ministry that I unfortunately didn’t know anything about.
That was a hard pill to swallow. I had never really considered that instead of just looking at what other ministers were doing, I should look at Jesus’ life and ministry, learn from him, and follow his example.
Yes, I knew the words of Jesus. I had preached through the gospels and I knew the red letters. I also knew the works of Jesus. I knew that Jesus fed the poor, taught the teachable, healed the sick, and cast demons out of the oppressed. All the while, however, I had somehow overlooked the way of Jesus—his approach to ministry, and his strategy for transforming ordinary people into world changers. By chasing the most current methods, I had actually missed the ancient path laid down by Jesus himself.

A Transformative Study

This realization led me to a two-year, in-depth study of the life of Jesus. I felt that I needed to study his life chronologically; to zoom out and get a true picture of his life and ministry. This was new for me. I had never really studied his life “in order” before, and during this study, I learned that the way he did things was very strategic. He had a plan for ministry that was timeless—it would work for any generation—and he wanted me to follow it.
This simple understanding has changed my life and has changed the scoreboard of how I measure ministry success. Previously, I had defined success in terms of larger attendance, larger buildings, a larger budget, and larger baptism numbers. Now, I began to see that Jesus wanted changed lives, authentic followers, and a multiplying movement. Jesus forever reshaped my way of doing ministry because he led me to discover his way.

The Central Preoccupation: Disciple-Making

People have often asked me, “Why do you focus so much on disciple-making? Why is this your central preoccupation?” And I guess I would have to say that once I studied the life of Jesus, I became convinced that Jesus’ way is still the best way. While I appreciate other strategies and approaches, his way is the one I want to follow.

An Invitation to Follow Jesus’ Example

Maybe you’re guilty of doing the same things I did—tracking the most successful pastors and imitating their preaching styles, their ministry philosophies, and even the clothes they wear, hoping their successes will rub off on you. Maybe you’ve already found that this can truly lead to a disappointing end if Jesus is not the one you truly follow.
If so, I believe that once you take a fresh look at his life and ministry, once you see him up close, your approach to ministry will be impacted.

A Journey into the Life of Jesus

After looking at Jesus’ life, you’ll see more clearly why the church exists, why it’s so anemic today, and why so many believers stall out in their spiritual growth. The goal here is for you to get to know him in a brand-new way as you examine key events that shaped his ministry.
We’ll uncover core convictions we see in His life that I believe will shape your ministry moving forward. We’ll talk about why ministry is done a certain way and why God shows up to bless churches that follow Jesus’ way.
My hope and prayer is that your life and ministry will be forever changed. As you really get to know Him and follow Him, I pray that Jesus will reveal to you why His way still works today.
This blog features an excerpt from one of our books, His Way Still Works.

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