Part II: Why Do We Have a Biblical Philosophy of Ministry?
This is Part II of "Why Do We Have a Biblical Philosophy of Ministry?". Click here to read Part I.
A Biblical Philosophy of Ministry Gives Us a Standard
We all can struggle with knowing what to do in life. Some of our youth here struggle to understand what college to attend, whether to attend college, go into the military, or work in a trade. In life, it's okay to struggle to get on the right path, especially when you're young. Looking back on my life, I struggled to find the right direction. Yet each move was ordained by God, who guided our family. I'm sure if you look at your life, you can see many of the same things.
Looking back on the past few years, we can see the same struggle as a church. We've started this or that Bible study. We've made this or that decision. We didn't follow through. There's been pressure to do things that don't align with our ministry philosophy. There have been missteps along the way, some of which can be expected as we work to settle into effective ministry. Even established churches start ministries only to see them wane and change due to ministry direction.
I was caught up in one of those changes in seminary. I volunteered with a ministry called Grace Advance, only to find out a couple of weeks after starting that both main leaders were moving to other ministries. I didn't even find out from them. I found out from other people when I didn't hear from them. It was like the rug was pulled out from under me. But those changes shouldn't cause us to struggle too much. Even the apostle Paul saw many changes in ministry direction. In Acts 16, Luke records a time when Paul's ministry team decided to go to certain places but were forbidden by the Holy Spirit. They ended up in Macedonia, preaching the Gospel in Philippi and Thessalonica. They had wonderful ministries with churches firmly planted and established in both places. Regardless, Paul and his team didn't understand the changes in direction at the time.
God guides us in ministry today, yet we can still expect "fits and starts" as we try to discern God's will for us. Sometimes ministries with little or nothing to do with our church's purpose can consume time and resources. We need to be able to evaluate those things and say no to them. A biblical POM gives us a standard to consider ministry. We are in grave danger when we don't assess ministry by a biblical standard because we'll get stuck with ministries that are not effective. Yet they use valuable resources. A biblical POM allows decisions to be made with an overall scriptural understanding firmly in place and at the forefront of our thinking.
A biblical POM gives us a standard we can use to determine the ministries we should participate in. Whether starting a Christian School or a seminary, partnering with parachurch organizations, or even sending out or partnering with a missionary, a biblical POM gives us a standard to evaluate these opportunities. It also provides us with a standard for assessing ministries such as preaching. It helps us answer the question of why we preach the word every Sunday. It helps us evaluate our music ministry. It gives us a standard to look at children's Sunday School or Youth Ministry to ensure that we're pursuing them biblically.
A Biblical Philosophy of Ministry Provides Us a Shield
According to the Apostle Paul, the elder must hold fast to the faithful word to be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). We must appreciate how easy it is to fall into doctrinal error. Someone can come along with something that sounds good; maybe it tickles our ears (2 Tim 4:3). If we're not careful, we can be swept into error. We must recognize that apostasy not only occurs in orthodoxy or doctrine – what we believe – but can come through orthopraxy, or the practice of our doctrine.
Many churches have good doctrinal statements. I don't know how many times I have looked for churches on the internet. You can look at their doctrinal statement, and it looks good, but then you dig deeper into the church and find out that they don't practice what they teach or supposedly teach. This has been a problem for the Church since the beginning. Paul called Peter out for his lack of living out the doctrine that he clearly understood. He asked Peter why he compelled the Gentiles to live like Jews (Gal 2:11-21). Peter had succumbed to pressure from the Jews, so he compelled the Gentiles to begin doing things like the Jewish people. Therefore, knowing the truth doesn't always translate into living out the truth.
We must recognize that pastors and churches can apostatize by degrees without noticing they've slipped. We need to review our POM continually to see areas where we've fallen and need a reset. A well-crafted and utilized POM provides a needed check on the direction of the church. In contrast, a shallow and flippant understanding of the divine purposes for the church will lead to a pragmatic, carnal, and possibly sinful approach to ministry.
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