Friday, 14 April 2017
6 ways how not to do Christian Ministry – Lessons from 1 Thess.2:1-6
These are lessons learned from the ministry of Paul to the Thessalonians. Paul had a successful ministry and everyday as we read his writings, we see the principles that helped him to succeed. There are 6 things he did not do and if we avoid them as ministers, we will also succeed.
1. "For the appeal we make does not spring from error” Vs. 3. An error is what is not correct. It can be a mistake made out of ignorance or deficiency. An error is a deviation from or a distortion of the truth. The error in the context of our passage is an error made out of deception. Paul made sure he told the Thessalonians only the truth so that they would not place their faith on lies or human made-up logic. The truth sounded so simple and foolish to some people but Paul did not mind. That is what sets free.
Many people live in delusion because they have believed lies from men they have ignorantly trusted. Bogus promises are made to them and in the end they are exploited and robbed. In this deluded state, many make sacrifices, make expensive commitments and place their hopes on teachings that are strange to sound biblical interpretations. Some of us add all kinds of things to our preaching so as to make it “sweet” and more acceptable to the people. We say things just to move people even though we are aware that something is wrong with what we are saying. We often paint pictures that are questionable and give unverifiable “testimonies” just to make our preaching sound “great”. We tend to forget that there is no coating, cleansing or improvement that can be done to error in order to make it become accurate. Error does not have the capacity to accomplish God’s purpose. As ministers, we have to avoid it and pursue what is sound.
2. “For the appeal we make does not spring from …impure motives” Vs. 3. Paul said that his exhortation did not proceed from uncleanness or impurities of thoughts and actions. So, is it possible to do Christian ministry with impure motives? Yes! Impure motives lead to a lot of immoral behaviors. Uncleanness precedes moral failures. It breeds vain values that lead to corrupt and depraved lifestyles in ministry. Christian ministry must not be done together with dirtiness of any sort whether in words or in actions.
3. “For the appeal we make does not spring from …deceit” Vs. 3. Deceit is a dishonest behavior. It is purposeful and intended to mislead, cheat, falsify, or trick. Deceit is duplicity and scheme. Again Paul’s exhortation was not that of scheming. The pursuit of sincerity was a principle that Paul imbibed throughout his ministry. He told the Corinthians “We have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.” 2 Cor. 4:2. He further told them, “Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God.” 2 Cor. 2:17. He said that they were so many who peddled God’s word for profit. Today, the number has doubled a million times. Our exhortations no longer set people free from sin, Satan and the world because we are not declaring the truth that sets free. The deceptions we see today around us are not new. It has been in every generation. The truth is that deceit is not the way to do Christian ministry.
4. “We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts” Vs. 4. Another way not to do Christian ministry is to be distracted into pleasing men rather than prioritizing pleasing the God who called us into the ministry. The ministry work is His own and not our own. “No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs — he wants to please his commanding officer.” 2 Tim 2:4. It is all about Him and not about us or about the men who watch us. There are men pleasers everywhere who can do anything so as to attract favour. Men that will rather displease God as long as they are in the good books of their paymasters. They forget that God is the ultimate Pay Master whose verdict over our ministry is final both for now and for eternity. It happens to men in different strata of ministry.
A congregation that is full of men pleasers cannot tell themselves the truth. It depends on the side your benefactor belongs. Deacons and deaconesses, teachers, council and board members who are men pleasers cannot tell themselves or the church they serve the truth. They kill their pastors and leaders because they cannot give them the true picture of things to enable them make sound decisions. All that is important to them is just to be identified on the side of the leader and not on the side of truth. In the men pleasing business, truth is the only victim. Pastors who are men pleasers cannot stand firm on true doctrine if it is going to offend someone “important” to them. Senior pastors, overseers and bishops who are men pleasers will find it difficult to discipline erring members or pastors when it affects a person they want to please, it does not matter how God feels about the issue. For every men pleaser, it is about his or her gain. The gain is defined by the men pleaser himself.
Woe to a leader who is surrounded by men pleasers. At that time when you will need men to support and stand by you, you will walk alone. Why? You will definitely fall into a pit you cannot see meanwhile you are in the company of men who will see the pit but instead of pointing it to you they withdraw themselves because they do not want to offend you.
We quickly note here too that oftentimes, we pay some price for not being a men pleaser. The men-pleasing ministry feeds some people’s ego and makes them feel “secure” and protects some interests. You will often suffer if you are not a men pleaser; but if your focus is pleasing God, it worth it. Look at what Paul said in Gal 1:10 “If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” “We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. Vs. 6.
5. “You know we never used flattery …” Vs. 5. Christian ministry is not to be done with flattery. Flattery words are bloated words, swelling words spoken with exaggerations. Flattery words are excessive or insincere words, speech or praise. It may be truth but blown out of proportion. Truth does not need to be padded. Flattery words are sweet words meant to make the hearer feel good, even when the intention may be different. Flattery can be either in the content of what is said or in the way it is said.
It is a temptation that men that stand on the podium face every day; either they are tempted to flatter others for their own gain or they allow themselves to be flattered. The Gospel of God does not need flattery to change lives. The name of the Lord Jesus does not need the help of flattery in order to cause men to bow down their knees. The Gospel of Jesus is the power of God. As a servant of Christ, you cannot do Christian ministry with flattery.
6. “You know we never …put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness.” Vs. 5. Finally, you cannot do Christian ministry with a mask of any kind. Once you have a mask as a servant of Christ, it is a big problem. Why? Attitudinal masks always cover up something, in most cases bad things. In our passage, it is a mask to cover up greed. Like I said earlier, what we see today is not a new phenomenon. Over the centuries of the church existence, men have been doing ministry with their belly as their focus. Greed is inordinate or wrong desire, especially for wealth or possessions.
You cannot do Christian ministry with inordinate desire for wealth or possession and succeed as a servant of God. When our focus in ministry and measurements for success are houses, kind or number of cars, how expensive our clothes are etc, then we may have started doing a strange ministry even thou we are still being seen as servants of Christ.
In conclusion, Paul said “…we speak as men approved by God…God …tests our hearts…God is our witness” Vs.4-5. May God’s approval be our utmost goal in ministry. May we labor with the consciousness that He tests our hearts and will eventually determine what our motives are. He is indeed our witness. God bless.