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Overcoming the 'My Ministry' Mentality
There is a phrase we used in Bible school that I have all but purged from my vocabulary. It is the phrase "my ministry." We used to ask each other, "What is your ministry?" and respond, "I think this will be my ministry."
Now, of course, we have unique individual callings, but rarely does someone fulfill that call alone. Yes, when the disciples scattered after Stephen's death, Phillip goes to Samaria alone, but what is the first thing he does when the Holy Spirit is poured out? He calls for apostolic backup, and those stalwarts, Peter and John, are sent.
Paul Worked in Apostolic Teams
We don't see this concept of "my ministry" in the Bible. The only time it is used is when Paul says, "I magnify my ministry" in his efforts to win Jewish people to Yeshua. He is hardly exalting himself in an egocentric way; Paul was the ultimate team player. He begins his ministry serving Barnabas and the other leaders in Antioch. Then he is sent out as a junior apostle with Barnabas. As the grace of God grows upon him, he becomes the team leader with Barnabas and John Mark. Later, we see Paul with Silas, Timothy and Titus.
Perhaps no congregation was closer to Paul's heart than Ephesus. He sends for the team of elders—not the senior leader alone—to give his final farewell to them. These are men who he raised up into leadership. He is not threatened by their success, as so many senior leaders are by those under them, but rejoices as they spread the gospel.
From there, he goes to Jerusalem to meet with James? No, to meet with James and the Jerusalem apostolic team.
Our Example in Tel Aviv
In our ministry here in Israel, Tiferet Yeshua congregation, we have a team of five couples in Tel Aviv. For several years, I led this team and just recently turned it over to a native-born Israeli—but I am still part of the team. Also, we are in covenant relationship with two other congregations in Jerusalem. Besides this, we have a growing relationship with five Messianic congregations in western and eastern Galilee that have similar core values.
We have just started a brand-new show: Out of Zion on GOD.TV. I am the one whom people see on screen, but it is the team that makes it happen. The program would be nothing without our producer, Ivan; our cameraman, Yigal; our soundman, Michael; and Ruth, who does makeup and so much more. There is also Miriam in the office. So now, Out of Zion is not "my ministry," it is the Lord's ministry through which we, the team, have the privilege of serving Him.
Young Leaders Sometimes Threaten Older Leaders
Sadly, some leaders have more of a king mindset. For them, it is "my ministry," and everyone else is there to serve them. In such a scenario, leaders of substance are rarely raised up. These lone leaders tend to fear men of authority and gifting, and so they push away others with calling and anointing for leadership. They fear if they allow these leaders more exposure, it will lessen their impact. Consequently, they push them away, and these potential leaders often leave in frustration, seeking to work with people where their gifts can be used.
The controlling leader is left with the equivalent of eunuchs, or yes-men who do their bidding. In some cases, he surrounds himself—yes, even in congregational ministry—with hatchet men to keep young bucks in line. Paul abhors these personality cults, and he rails at the Corinthians for saying, "I am of Paul" or "I am of Apollos" (see 1 Cor. 1:12).
One of the great privileges of my life is to work with men who exemplify this mentality towards ministry. Asher Intrater, Dan Juster and Eitan Shishkoff made a decision in the 1980s that instead of birthing their own ministry, they would make a covenant before God to work together and serve each other. From that commitment, dozens of congregations have been birthed in Israel and the U.S., not to mention schools and discipleship training programs.
The Power of Synergy
We work in ministry teams where each one has a unique gifting. This is called synergy. The idea is very biblical, and it means that the sum of the parts working together is greater than the sum if they worked independently. Essentially, we, as leaders, can get more done in the kingdom, working in partnership, than we could if we worked alone.
But that takes commitment. It means not quitting when someone disagrees with you. It means embracing humility and rejoicing when your brother succeeds, not just when you do. It means preferring others above yourselves.
So, let's shed the "My Ministry" mentality, and embrace the apostolic team model we see in the New Covenant.
Ron Cantor is the director of Messiah's Mandate International in Israel, a Messianic ministry dedicated to taking the message of Jesus from Israel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Cantor also travels internationally teaching on the Jewish roots of the New Testament. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua, a Hebrew-speaking congregation in Tel Aviv. Follow him at @RonSCantor on Twitter.
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