Replenish Your Soul: Your Ministry is Not Your Life

by Lance Witt

Your ministry is not your life. Jesus is. In Colossian 3:4 Paul said “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (NIV). Notice the words “Christ, who is your life.” Jesus is my life. He is the center of my universe and everything revolves around my relationship with him. My whole life has been surrendered to him as my king and Lord. He is my life.

I was crystal clear about this when I went into ministry as a young man. But there have certainly been seasons through the years where I lost that clarity. My ministry became my identity. My ministry became my first love. My ministry consumed all my spiritual passion. My ministry (not Jesus) was my life. The unintended byproduct during those seasons was a slow disconnect from Jesus.

When you begin to disconnect from Jesus and ministry becomes your life, you begin to do ministry in the flesh. You begin to think that serving God is all about working hard, being strategic, developing leaders and executing vision. You fundamentally begin to believe that it’s up to you.

When you have disconnected from the vine (Jesus), ministry will become joyless striving and stressful pushing. It will become a hassle and a burden.

This is what happened to the priests in the book of Malachi. The whole book is a response to their spiritual drift. It is four chapters of rebuke. In chapters 2 and 3, the Lord rebukes the people (the congregation) for their disobedience.

In the opening chapter, God’s rebuke is not directed toward the congregation of Israel but toward the priests, the professional ministers. What was happening in the congregation was a byproduct of what was happening in the leadership. God was not pleased with their offerings nor with the attitude of their service in ministry.

In verse 13 Malachi reprimands them with these words: And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the Lord Almighty (NIV).

Carrying out the duties and responsibilities of ministry had become a annoyance. The result was that they began to despise their calling. Serving wasn’t a blessing, it was a burden. Ministry wasn’t an honor, it was a hassle.

I think that is a good picture of what happens to us when we get disconnected from Jesus.

Moses serves as a good example for ministry leadership.

God came to Moses at the burning bush and gave him the assignment of leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses has a very predictable response. “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

God’s answer to Moses’ question was not very spectacular or dramatic. God simply says, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you”.

God says the people will follow you because you have my presence in your life. That is what qualifies you for spiritual leadership of the people. It wasn’t because Moses was the brightest, most skilled, or had the most winsome personality. The one characteristic that would give his leadership credibility and spiritual power was God’s presence.

But that wasn’t enough for Moses. Moses wanted something more tangible, more dazzing, and more spectacular. So God did the miracles with Moses’ staff becoming a snake, and his hand becoming leprous. He even gave him Aaron as a mouthpiece to help with Moses’ communication.

If you fast forward to Exodus 32, Moses has led the people out of Egypt and is now up on Mt. Sinai. Imagine this scene. Moses is on the mountain with God receiving the tablets. In Exodus 32:16 the Bible says, “The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” Unbelievable. In this moment, Moses is in the very presence of God, and God is literally etching the Ten Commandments into stone.

Down below the people are making a golden calf. What a contrast to what is happening up on the mountain top. God is furious and wants to wipe them out. Moses intercedes, and God backs down from destroying the people.

As chapter 33 opens God says he will send them into the promised land. But there is one caveat. God says he will send an angel to accompany them, but that his presence won’t go with them.

In Exodus 33:3b God tells us why. “But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way” (NIV).

When Moses responds to God, Moses gives us some hints about how far his relationship with God has developed over the years. He has matured and his soul is deeply connected to God.

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33:15 (NIV)

In Exodus 3, God’s presence wasn’t enough for Moses. He needed the dramatic and spectacular. In Exodus 33, God’s presence was all that mattered to Moses. Later in Numbers 12:8, it says of Moses that He had a face to face relationship with God.

I want that.

God was Moses’ life. He had learned the valuable lesson that relationship comes before responsibility.

If we back up a couple of verses we can hear Moses tell God what he needs for the leadership task ahead. His request might surprise you.

In Exodus 33:12-13 Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people. (NIV)”

Notice that Moses doesn’t ask for leadership skill or great charisma. He says “teach me your ways so I may know you”. It’s all about relationship. The relationship would give him the strength to carry out the responsibility.

This is exactly what Jesus taught us in John 15. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5 (NLT)”

“Remaining” is all about relationship. It is about making Jesus your life and then letting the ministry flow out of that relationship.

The apostle Paul says it a little different in 1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT): “For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power.”

As ministry leaders, we have been called to do a hard thing. We are kingdom bringers to a dark world. The battle is real. Add to this the fact that we are broken and frail and flawed. We desperately need the life of Jesus flowing through us in order to carry out our kingdom calling.

That is why it’s imperative for us to pay attention to our souls.

Jesus is an incredible gift given to us. And as people in ministry we get the privilege of carrying that gift to the world. Our ministry can be likened to the box and wrapping paper and bow. Our size and style of our wrapping paper and boxes can vary from ministry to ministry, but we are all trying to deliver the same gift (Jesus).

Never lose sight of the fact that the box (your ministry) is not as valuable as the gift (Jesus). And the only reason the box exists is to deliver the gift. You have dedicated your life to the gift, not the box.

Lance Witt is Lance is the founder of Replenish Ministries, an organization devoted to ministering pastors to help them become healthy, holy, and humble.  replenish.net

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One Response to Replenish Your Soul: Your Ministry is Not Your Life

  1. Greeting in the Name of Jesus Christ!

    Dear Brother and Sisters In Christ, Samoos Bible Care Ministries Pakistan (SBCMP) is a non profit, nondenominational Christian ministry working for the spread of the Gospel in Pakistan. We are working for this mission since the year 2004. In a period of only few years we have done an extensive work to send the gospel out in Pakistan. We live in a very backward and underdeveloped area of Punjab where people are illiterate, not only in the formal and non formal education, but as well as in the knowledge of the Word of God.

    To get the Gospel to the people who need it, we have Sunday prayers. Also, we organize open-air prayer meetings in the surrounding areas where no pastor or evangelists are going with the Gospel. This way we are reaching those people who have never heard the Bible before.

    Our vision is to reach the unreached millions of Pakistan through gospel crusades, evangelistic out-reaches, literature out-reach, mass media, native missionaries; and also through planting a dynamic church in every out-reached community – along with the least-evangelized areas of Pakistan that do not have a gospel witness.

    Out Activities are: Crusades, Healing Meetings, Revival Meetings, Leadership Seminars, Women Prayer Meeting, Widows Care, Orphans Care Sunday School, Outreach Evangelism, Free Bibles Distribution and helping natural disaster effected people etc.

    Here, I would like to explain some facts about Pakistan. Pakistan is the third largest Islamic nation in the world, with more than 150 million souls. 97.2 % of the population is Muslim. Christians make up just 2 % of the population; and these people suffer more than any other ethnic or religious group. Pakistan is in the very heart of the 10/40 Window – the geographic area where 95 % of the un-reached people of the world live. Between India and Afghanistan, Pakistan is a strategic nation. Since the September 11 attack, Pakistan has become the focus of the world. Pakistan is a country with different cultures, languages, people groups, economical backgrounds, etc. Pakistan has a desperate need for assistance in evangelism, Church planting, literature outreach, leadership training, and strengthening of the local Church. 97 % of the newly planted churches and new believers need a place to worship and fellowship. A shortage of Bibles, Gospel literature, faith-based books, leaders, and training material makes it difficult for Christians in Pakistan to grow in their faith and to sustain their relationship with Christ. More than half of Pakistan’s population has never heard about Jesus. Pakistan is an Islamic country, ruled by Islamic law. Christians of Pakistan make quite a sizable population, with more than 10 million souls. But they have to face religious discrimination, religious intolerance, oppression, social subjugation, and economic deprivation. Therefore, Christians are generally less privileged and backward. A growing body of believers continually struggles under government persecution; because it is officially illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity. Since the country’s blasphemy law was created in 1991, an offended Muslim can accuse a Christian on almost any grounds. False and arbitrary accusations of speaking against the Quran or Muhammad are a common practice by Muslim fundamentalists. In the persecuted environment of Pakistan, 90% of the churches are not very well established. The majority of existing churches need buildings for fellowship, as they meet in open air. Native missionaries make great sacrifices for the sake of the Gospel. Many times, they go without food; and they travel hundreds of kilometers just to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ. In some parts of Pakistan, Muslim fundamentalists attack the missionaries, and they are forced to put off their work as well as their faith. Please keep them in your prayers as they seek to faithfully serve the Lord under great hardship.

    Islam may be the greatest challenge before the Church in this Century; but it may also represent the largest potential harvest. There are one and one-quarter billion Muslims in the world; nearly 25% of the world population. Most have never heard the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. Instead, they follow a religion based entirely on works and judgment. If we don’t bring the grace of God into that world, the hostilities of this decade will only grow and intensify. Politics will not resolve this issue; only the Church has the answer.

    This is harvest time, and the fields are truly white and ready for harvest. Let’s take the message of God’s saving and healing power to the ends of the earth, and bring in a mighty harvest of souls for God’s glory. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions for eternity.

    We would like to request that you take part in this greatest harvest of any Islamic nation. It will be a blessing for us to partner with you for His glory. Please pray for this Godly vision and join hands with us for national transformation, under the power of the Holy Spirit.

    So, my dear co-worker in Christ –so please join us with the hands together and lift up in your prayer to keep spread the word of God in Pakistan.

    May the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, now and forever more!

    Your Fellow Worker in Pakistan.

    Pastor George John.

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