Support and Resources For Pastors and
Christian Ministry Professionals
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
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Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div, M.S.A.
- Often when pastors and other church professionals enter the ministry they are excited,
eager and ready to minister to the fullest of their talent. They look to their
congregation or area of ministry and see it as a ministry which God has called them to
- As they seek various ways to change the ministry for the glory of God, they look to ways
to address and change the spirituality of the people belonging to and affected by the
ministry. Exceptional energies may be exerted for that end. Sermons, worship services, a
multitudinous variety of ministries, discipleship efforts, mentoring sessions and
spiritual growth opportunities of many kinds will be directed toward the one goal:
changing the people.
- Of course, ministers desiring to see the change in people and the congregation are
engaged in a noble effort. They understand the power of the Word. They understand that
God's power alone is that which really propels the Word and changes lives. But it is often
directly singularly at one goal: changing the people.
- When They Don't Change
- Sooner or later the inevitable happens. The people don't change. The dysfunctional
organization resists the change and attacks the change agent. Criticism, conflict and
antagonism all begin to rise up in the congregation.
- Internally, frustration and bitterness grow in the heart of the Christian leader.
"Why won't they change?" "What's wrong with them?" "How can they
call themselves 'Christians?!'" and other righteous sorts of anger responses are
spoken or muttered.
- The harder the leader pushes, the more insistent the pastor becomes, the greater the
continuing frustration. When they don't change and appear as if they never will change,
the pastor responds in despondency and failure. "What's wrong with me?!"
"What did I do wrong?!" "I thought that if I preached and ministered in a
dedicated way that God's Word would change them! What went wrong?!"
- God's Little Surprise
- Just at this point is where pastors and Christian leaders may begin to experience a deep
restlessness and anxiety they have never before experienced. It doesn't seem like any
previous experiences. It doesn't seem to "fit" into anything they have heard at
seminary or read in Scripture. But the anxiety, grief, confusion and uncertainty of one's
identity, calling, effectiveness and future can be overwhelming.
- It is in this deeply emotional and despondent spiritual state that God begins to work
His "Little Surprise." That surprise is that your calling to ministry is
primarily God's way of changing you.
- The Purpose Of Ministry
- Too often we consider the ministry exclusively from an external perspective. We consider
it and define it as a Divine calling, a noble function, a Biblical task, and an essential
fulfillment of God's purpose for each one of His called servants.
- This external purpose of ministry is focused on ministry externals. It is focused on a
faithful congregational ministry. It is focused on leading a congregation toward greater
effectiveness in sharing the Gospel. It is focused on discipling and changing people to
the grace of God by the grace of God. It is focused on renewing every single aspect of
ministry so as to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as vigorously as possible.
- The Ministry: The Internal Perspective
- God's little surprise is that there is an internal purpose for ministry too. That
purpose is to change the heart of the minister.
- Even as congregations are resistant to change, so are the pastors who have preached
change and transformation to them. When God works to transform His leaders they often
refuse to see, accept or humble themselves to the internal purpose of ministry.
- The purpose of this is nothing less than to transform God's leaders by grace for a more
profound experience and understanding of God's grace.
- About The Transformation
- The transformation is like a continuous "Twelve-Step" process of renewal. Ministry Health's "Twelve Steps Of Spiritual
Transformation" (#146) describes this process in greater depth.
However God accomplishes the transformation He desires, it is always unique to the
individual but results in certain common character transformations.
- Some of the results of transformation related to this inner transformation may include:
- 1) A greater sense of ministry weakness before God and a correspondingly greater sense
of God's strength for ministry;
- 2) A greater conviction that God shall build His Church and a corresponding recognition
that we don't build the church. Like Paul and Apollos we just plant, water and wait (I Cor
- 3) Learning what Christian leadership really is. Christian leadership isn't about
- power; it's about letting go and letting God's power really direct the ministry
(cf. Ministry Health's "Sixteen Lessons Of Leadership"
- 4) Shifting ones focus from physical resources to a recognition and trust of God's
illimitable resources for His Church;
- 5) Growing in a profound recognition of how difficult forgiveness really is for us
to give and a corresponding recognition of how profound God's grace is to accept others
and our unworthy selves;
- 6) Recognizing that a one's ministry without God is powerless, no matter what the
- 7) Realizing that there are really no "chance" happenings or "fatal
mistakes" in the Church in God's broader, gracious providential perspective. He makes
everything (even sin) work out for the good for those who love Him long after
we've given up hope;
- 8) Understanding that there's never a time without hope in God's gracious plan for us;
- 9) Experiencing unparalleled transformation of character to make us more suitable for
ministry (Cf. Ministry Health's
Ten Tests Of
Character" Article #127);
- 10) Becoming aware of the "theological habitude" (habitus practicus)
which embraces the ability to suffer for the sake of Christ and His word. This awareness
makes us aware of a sense of Christ-likeness of bearing the wounds of Christ (Cf.
Galatians 6:17 (NIV) "I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.")
- 11) Beginning to move beyond a perfunctory spirituality toward a "practice of the
presence of God." This does not mean a full-scale adoption of Brother
Lawrence's theology or meditative techniques. Nor does it entail a full-scale engulfing by
- What it does mean, however, is that we begin to realize that God's working in our
ministry and our lives is transcends what we see and experience with our senses. For
further reading see Ministry Health's
"Ministry In The
Fourth Dimension."( Article #172);
- 12) Appreciating the full effects of original sin and the power of the Gospel which
alone can confront and do away with sin;
- 13) Recognizing that our ministries are not "careers." They are
"callings." Whatever our aspirations might be, when we understand God's
little surprise of our internal calling we can accept that we may stay in
"What-Good-Can-Come-From-Nazareth?" ministries for the rest of our lives. Or we
may suddenly find ourselves over our head in a ministry we never dreamed of but, when we
see it, recognize it as God's special calling for us--internal and external. For more
information see Ministry Health's "How's Your Career Path Going?"
- 14) Discovering that God has created us, gifted us, and led us in such a unique way that
to deny our essential uniqueness for external ministry is one of the greatest failures in
- 15) Having to confront those developmental personality issues and dysfunctions which
though you think strengthen you, really hinder God's greater working in you;
- 16) Releasing you from the shame-based ministry which depends upon externalities,
achievements, recognition, etc. which had been the basis of the value of your ministry and
of yourself. Our value is always rooted in the unconditional, overwhelming love of Jesus
Christ for us, not on externals. Period!; and
- 17) Giving you the experience that no matter how great the grief, God is there and He
will bring healing. When the healing comes you will have a joy in His grace never before
- God's Little Surprise For You
- There are certainly a number of other possible things which occur when God works in our
internal calling. It is surprising for two reasons.
- First, it is surprising because God's little surprise can be
so very, very painful. It traumatizes, causes doubt, frustration, alienates family, causes
one to withdraw, may lead to depression, et al.
- Second, it is surprising because God's little surprise is
always followed by God's greatest surprise. He was there. He was with you. He has healed
you. Now you really know His grace and what God can do. The very heart and spirituality of
your ministry has been deepened and transformed.
- Don't Resist God's Little Surprise!
- It is for this reason that many resist God's little surprise. They get scared and
frightened. Sometimes they resign from ministry, from faith, and sometimes even life.
- Not understanding the spiritual process of God's internal re-working and renewing of
their faith, they throw their hands up in disgust, anger, frustration and failure. If they
resign from their ministry in the middle of this process, they may face greater guilt and
feelings of unworthiness and incompetence. This, unfortunately, may come as a very
- It happened to Peter. But Jesus restored him and so many, many others who, in weakness,
have given up in their greatest hours. Regardless of Peter's response, Jesus' response was
sure. "I love you, Peter. I really, really do!" It happened to others, too.
Jonah and John Mark are just two examples in a very long listing of invaluable leaders
who, resisting the internal calling, were restored by God for His ministry.
- However, we need to remember that it is our nature as sinful human beings to resist
God's working in us. Just because we're "called" doesn't make us immune. In
fact, it may make us even more susceptible to such intense and severe testing.
- It is for this reason that the joy which God gives to us at the end of our "little
surprise" experience is so important. It fixes our eyes on Jesus, the Author and
Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He does forgive. His grace is always
given...even for you.
- God's Surprise Is No Surprise At All!
- Virtually none of the results of "God's little surprise" are surprising. But
what may be surprising is how much deeper they are in our lives and how they alter our
leadership. However God comes with His little surprise to you, the end result will always
be related to God's words to St. Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you" (II
- Now, does that surprise you? It shouldn't...especially after you experience God's little
surprise. The more you experience it over your tenure of ministry, the more you realize
how true it is for you, too.
- Remember it, think it, pray it, meditate it, preach it, speak it, live it, and boast
about it. God's grace is sufficient for your ministry in Jesus Christ.
- Thomas F. Fischer
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:04:09 PM