The Extra Ministry Mile

Anyone who is seeking to be faithful in Gospel ministry should first prepare himself with a mindset of diligence and a willingness to "be spent" (to borrow words from the Apostle Paul) for the sake of the Gospel.

I recognize that there are men who have been called by God to enter the ministry, who have a zeal for the spread of the Gospel and the care of the people of God but who struggle at times to be diligent in their labors. There have been many times when I have been weary or worn to the point that I have not wanted to go the extra ministry mile. When those times come, I remind myself of the example of the Savior. Jesus was often weary and worn; and yet, he pressed on in seeking to fulfill the ministry for which he was sent by his Father by giving himself to prayer (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12).

 

In his outstanding series of talks to young men preparing for ministry, Charles Spurgeon cited a theologian who famously said, “Study yourself to death and then pray yourself alive again.” One can take this sentiment, reshape and reform it into a dozen others, in order to encourage young men who are about to enter into the ministry. For instance, we could just as easily say, “Preach yourself to death and then pray yourself alive again,” “Write yourself to death and then pray yourself alive again,” and “Evangelize yourself to death and then pray yourself alive again.” Each of these statements carry with them the idea that ministry is an exhausting calling. Anyone who is seeking to be faithful in Gospel ministry should first prepare himself with a mindset of diligence and a willingness to “be spent” (to borrow words from the Apostle Paul) for the sake of the Gospel. This, however, is sadly not often the case with numbers of men who enlist in full-time Gospel ministry. In seeking to address this important subject, I want to consider some of the reasons why many are unwilling to pour themselves out in the service of Christ. Then, I want to encourage all who God has called to be ministers of the Gospel to go the extra ministry mile.

One of the primary reasons why more ministers do not give themselves wholly to Gospel-ministry is that they have a divided sense of priorities in life. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2:4). The prevalence of a divided heart among men in ministry is also discovered in Paul’s commendation of Timothy in Philippians 2:19-21: “I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” This is a scathing indictment against men in ministry who have a divded heart. All of us, if we were honest, would have to say that we have loved this world too much. We have loved pleasure too much. We have loved comfort too much. We have loved adulation too much. We have loved ourselves too much. A divided heart is a great detriment to the minister’s need to be striving for the sake of the Gospel.

Someone will object at this point by asking, “Are you suggesting that a minister is supposed to neglect his family for the sake of the Gospel?” Who would not acknowledge that there is an enormous danger here against which we must all be on guard? Many have turned their ministries into their mistress, so to speak. I had a wise mentor who told me many years ago, “You can lose the church and keep your family; but, you can’t lose your family and keep the church.” His point was simple: If we neglect our family on the alter of ministerial success we will inevitably find that we lose true ministerial success in both the sight of God and men. Our ministry must begin with our wives and children. God has entrusted them to our care so that we would wash our wives with the water of the word and bring up our children in the training and admonition of the Lord. One of the qualifications for a man to hold office in the church is that he must “manage his own household well.” Neglecting the spiritual, emotional, physical and financial needs of our families is ungodly. To do so in the name of ministerial commitment is a great danger against which we must vigorously guard.

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