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God Doesn't Need Renegades
Your effectiveness in ministry depends directly on your dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit. The promise of the gospel is that when we bow our knee to Christ as Savior and Lord, we are united with him, brought near to him for eternity (Ephesians 2:13). That is objectively true for us. However, there is a subjective experience of our union with Christ whereby we appropriate our union with him. This is dependence.
Vital help comes from a vital connection to Christ
Most of the young men I’ve encountered who aspire to serve God in vocational ministry gravitate toward the pragmatics of ministry performance: preaching improvement, church growth, cultural engagement, etc. While it is good and necessary to pursue excellence in these areas, the paradox of Christian ministry is that our “peak performance” in leading, shepherding, and preaching comes fundamentally from a rich spiritual life, not from ministry skills.
True spiritual fruit in becoming a better preacher, leader, shepherd, and cultural exegete depends entirely on the health and vitality of a pastor’s spiritual life. Only when we are vitally connected to Christ can we be vitally helpful to others.
Charles Spurgeon said it best: “The labour of the Christian ministry is well performed in exact proportion to the vigour of our renewed nature” (Lectures to my Students).
Go back a few centuries
Much of the writing on contemporary spirituality is shallow and focused on behavior modification (though, of course, you can find exceptions). To learn dependence on God and experience personal inner renewal, we must go back a few centuries. Much of the devotional literature of previous eras of church history was not as enamored with “success,” not as engulfed by entertainment, and not as driven by ministry output. Instead, it mainly focused on a vital spiritual inner life.
John Wesley, who made it his regular custom to spend two hours per day in prayer, wrote, “God does nothing except in response to believing prayer.”
Martin Luther famously said, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.” According to Luther, being busy is all the more reason to spend much time wrestling with God in prayer.
Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor and theologian, counseled those seeking to serve in pastoral ministry with these words: “When your minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it. Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and heavenly to them. They will most likely feel when you have been much with God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their ears.” God's people know when we are close to God—and when we are not. We are a model for them to be dependent on God.
Let us, “…set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12) by depending on the Holy Spirit.
This post is adapted from Darrin Patrick's book Church Planter: The Man, the Message, the Mission, available now.