How many lists of “things I’m thankful for” have you seen this week?
Of course, we’re thankful for family and friends and food and clothing and shelter and salvation. And of course, pastors and ministry leaders are thankful for the privilege of sharing the good news and building up the body of Christ. So now that we’ve established the obvious, let’s move on to the next article, the next blog post, the next item on our things-to-do list.
But…before we move on, what would happen if we turned the thankful list on its head?
What if we looked at thankfulness from God’s perspective? What makes God smile when He views ministry leaders serving in His name?
At the risk of appearing sacrilegious, here’s what He might include on His list:
Ministry leaders who
…maintain a high view of God.
Revelation 4 takes us into the throne room of heaven and reminds us that God is intimately involved in creation, yet transcendent over it. Holding both of those views in tension enables us to communicate a high view of God while encouraging others to reflect on the intimacy of belonging to our heavenly Father.
…model what it means to follow Christ.
Ministry is more than saying or singing the right words. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1 NIV). Or as the adage declares, “actions speak louder than words.”
…live with holiness.
The world mocks our hypocrisy when our preaching and teaching are not consistent with the way we live. God has not called us to impurity, but to holiness (I Thessalonians 4:7). Even if we’re able to fool everyone else, He knows our heart and mind and discerns our motives (Jeremiah 17:10 NIV).
…serve with joy.
Joy is contagious, but it’s also a choice. Joy is also inextricably linked to thankfulness. As Paul’s wrote in Colossians 1:12 (NIV), his desire was to see believers “giving joyful thanks to the Father.”
…are bold without being loud.
Our goal is not to drown out the world, but to speak and act with the confidence that comes from knowing who we belong to. Our boldness is rooted in the hope we have in Christ (II Corinthians 3:12 NIV).
As every ministry leader knows, we’re entering one of the busiest ministry seasons of the year. But busy is not the same as fruitful. A hamster running on a wheel in its cage is busy but doesn’t have much to show for its effort. It’s possible to be too busy in ministry. Too busy to pray. Too busy to spend quiet time with the Lord. Too busy to be there for our own families. Too. Busy. Colossians 1:10 (NIV) reminds us we should be “bearing fruit in every good work” and “growing in the knowledge of God.” As we grow in our understanding of who God is and what He has called each of us to do, our activity will not be busy-work, but rather fruitful work.
…have a heart of praise, not performance.
When it comes to praise, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Pastors and worship leaders are not meant to be performers. One pastor I know began a Sunday morning by asking his worship team, “Are you ready to sing?” When they said yes, he corrected them. They weren’t there to sing. They were there to praise God as they led worship.
At the risk of stating the obvious, life can be difficult. So we need to be strong. We need to have “great endurance and patience” and a strength that is rooted in “all power according to his glorious might” (Colossians 1:10 NIV). We please the heart of God when, instead of trying harder, working smarter, or doing better, we acquire our strength through total dependence on God’s Holy Spirit.
…take responsibility without infringing on God’s job description.
R. C. Sproul once said, “God has entrusted the ministry of the word to us, not its results.” It’s our job to rightly handle God’s word and minister to His people. Fruitful responses flowing from changed hearts are the responsibility of the Lord of the Harvest.
…live with humility.
Humility is a tricky thing…and even more difficult in ministry leadership. We can struggle to remain humble, then inevitably become proud of our humility. It’s when we’re confident we’re standing firm that we are the most vulnerable to failure (I Corinthians 10:12). Those in our ministry look up to us, seek our opinions and teaching, and quote us to others. But we are to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).
Be encouraged this Thanksgiving. As ministry leaders, we have much to be thankful for…including the privilege of pleasing the heart of God by serving Him as we serve His people.
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Ava Pennington is the author of Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, published by Revell Books and endorsed by Kay Arthur. In addition to writing, she teaches a Bible Study Fellowship class.