Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Passing the Test of Time

Culture, methods and technology change. Here are 10 principles for building a ministry that will leave eternal results.

Aristotle said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The New Testament says, “Let a man examine himself” (1 Cor. 11:28, NKJV), while in the Psalms, David says, “Search me ... know my heart ... try me” (Ps. 139:23). My goal in this column is to press leaders to probe deeply, honestly and with a readiness to receive possible refreshing or renewal in those principles that make leadership durable and enduring.

Martin Luther pressed the point that if we’re not at the foremost edge of the spiritual struggle, we’re really not in the battle at all.

All of us want to be on the cutting edge. I know I do. That’s why I struggled so intensely during a time of great physical pain and bewilderment. I wondered if I would simply become a worn-out relic or be an able recruit for the move of the Holy Spirit today.

In the midst of those days of personal struggle I began to receive fresh lessons from the Lord. I was reminded that while cultures, methods and technologies change, the key to touching people timelessly for eternity has not changed. Ultimately it is done in living out “the basics.”

The Holy Spirit gave me God’s timeless promise from Isaiah 11: “In that day … the Lord shall set His hand again the second time ...” (v. 11, emphasis added). While meditating on that prophetic statement, these words came: “Stand fast in faithfulness! You will be a participant in what I am about to do.”

I knew this word was for all who will accept the ingredients of a timeless ministry—one always available to God’s timeless principles. Touched by this hope, I sought guidelines for a “second time” visitation. Ten timeless principles distilled:

1. Pursue an intimate walk with God.
The Bible uses the word “know,” as in “Adam knew Eve, his wife,” to mean more than “acquaintance”—it signifies the intimate experience of a husband and wife during intercourse.

The human figure of sexual union as analogous to a spiritual relationship with God can sound mystical, but it helps me hear God’s call to press toward Him—to know Him. Such passion can lead to a new intimacy with Jesus. From our interchange of life while with Him, His Word-life seed is sown in us, guaranteeing revealed insight and spiritual fruitfulness.

2. Target a life with both design and discipline.
God told Moses, “ ... See to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you” (Ex. 25:40). Without designs for life—direction born of the Spirit—serving becomes hit-or-miss. Dreams and visions—God’s heaven-born designs—are promised to the Spirit-filled saint.

However, we also need to observe disciplines that are clearly enunciated in His Word. Without designs and disciplines, we become either visionaries who gain dreams from God yet aimlessly chase them, or legalists who know biblical guidelines but live them antiseptically, unintegrated with the life-giving Spirit who gave them.

The divinely targeted life seeks the way of the Lord revealed by the Spirit in prayer and obeys the will of the Lord as revealed in His Word.

3. Commit to cultivate body ministry.
Ephesians 4:11 names the five office ministries, not so much to identify them as to underscore their purpose to release the people of God into liberty, wholeness and effective ministry. Those we serve, like Gideon, tend to see themselves as unworthy of ministry potential. We must see them as God saw Gideon and serve them as potential “mighty ones of valor.”

As we pour out our lives to lovingly shepherd God’s people, they will begin to see themselves as God sees them—anointed people of His kingdom, filled with the wealth of heaven and capacity for greatness in Christ.

4. Seek faith-fully to build marriages and families.
I hyphenate the word “faith-fully” because I believe the Holy Spirit is calling every one of us who lead to gain a faith-filled conviction about our society. God isn’t done with it yet! The Spirit’s power can redeem the family as an institution again. He can raise new models to gloriously assert the family’s value and place before the eyes of a watching world.

We need to hear and believe God’s call to “faithfully” expect and purse the recovery and rebuilding of our families.

5. Respond passionately to God’s love for the lost.
John died when his car was smashed on the freeway. However, only three months before, John had received Jesus when one of my pastor-friends led him to Christ as the first convert in his new pastorate.

I wept when I heard that story, somehow reminded of the preciousness of each individual soul and the eternal loss that unchangingly abides as the horrible option to salvation. That one soul rekindled a passionate response in my soul. Does yours need to be refired in any way?

6. Walk an unswerving pathway of integrity.
Answering a call to integrity must be more than just an emotional reaction to failures we hear of too often among leaders. We need a personal, practical recognition of the necessity for total accountability in everyday matters of our leadership. For example, consider the following questions:


  • What words and style do we employ publicly—even when we’re simply announcing coming events in our churches? Are we flamboyant and promotionalistic? Or, are we forthright, simple and informative?
  • What dimension of integrity governs our choice of means for personal relaxation? What is our source of entertainment?
  • How do we handle the temptation to manipulate relationships to get what we want from people?
  • When in private, do we still hear the voice of the Spirit correcting and adjusting us?

    7. Keep an unabashed openness to supernatural ministry.
    The Lord calls us to do more than just cognitively accept a doctrine of supernatural ministry. He calls us to embrace the risks of its dynamic—to live in constant availability to His miracle presence.

    I object to the pious but misguided idea that God expects us to believe He will sprinkle miracles like diamonds everywhere we go. But he does call us to be people of miracle expectancy—people of power, moving wholeheartedly in whatever manifestation of His Spirit He gives.

    8. Respond passionately to the Great Commission.
    I believe that, for effective worldwide missions, we need a blending of 21st-century contemporaneity with first-century enthusiasm. In my youth and early ministry, missions conferences—replete with flags, artifacts, goal boards and faith promise cards—were everywhere.

    I became “burned out” on such fanfare and determined not to use those same means anymore. I don’t know if those same approaches would work today, anyway. But I do know this: The Lord is calling us to stir our congregations to vibrant action and participation in world missions.

    We need fresh strategies and a new, truly sacrificial approach to budgeting for our intensified outreach to the world. Just as the Holy Spirit raised up vital missions visionaries to shake the church in past generations, He is awakening us today.

    9. Demonstrate a biblical sensitivity to the spirit of prophecy.
    The Holy Spirit is always speaking to urge us to listen with fresh vitality. We face a high challenge to keep our ears tuned to His voice. At the same time, there is the need for fresh discernment and a deeper look into the eternal Word to keep everything in perspective.

    A measure of excitement over prophecy is valid, but a significant part of today’s glibness and glitz is under question. Discernment is truly needed, but still let us never despise prophecy. Let’s ground them all in the timeless security found in committing to our last principle:

    10. Do everything on the unshakable bedrock of the Scripture.
    The promise of Isaiah 11:11, which so stirred my soul, is available to all of us: “It shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set His hand again a second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left. ... ” “A second time” is a summons for us to be part of a new visitation.

    The Lord recurrently fulfills prophetic Scripture in multiple ways. Just as He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy six centuries before Christ by regathering Israel after its exile, He has fulfilled it again in the 21st century by gathering Jews in modern-day Israel. And He is still fulfilling His Word, always ready to pour out grace wherever He can find people who will hear His voice and respond.

    Jack W. Hayford, Litt.D., is the founder of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California; chancellor of The King’s College and Seminary and the president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
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