Mistakes to avoid when serving in ministry
Jesus put aside His great power, privileges and dignity in order to come and serve us. During His time on earth, He faced various temptations and trials. Similarly, we can expect tests and conflict when we serve in Christian ministry. There are some common mistakes we can avoid when we know what to look out for.
Mark 10:45 ESV For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Our diversity is meant to build, not divide
We all come from different backgrounds and have different perspectives and passions. God created such diversity to strengthen and build His Kingdom. If we are not careful however, Satan can also use our diversity to create division and weaken God’s work.
1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Let us stand strong with our fellow servants in Christ and glorify God with one voice. We represent our Father in Heaven accurately, when we uphold respect, humility, gentleness and patience with our fellow brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Serving others will challenge us to leave our worldly, competitive, self-centred standards behind so we can take on the mind of Christ.
Philippians 2:2-3 ESV … complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves..
Common mistakes when doing God’s work
Here are some ways we need to renew our minds when serving others in ministry.
1. It’s not about planning well… it’s about asking God first
It is dangerous to set ministry plans based on what we think we know. God may want to do something completely new and different from our expectations. When we lean on our own understanding and neglect to wait on God, we will run ahead of Him and grieve His Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? …
It is critical for us to wait on the Holy Spirit to guide us – even if that means delaying some plans or asking a group of people to wait. Only then can we be sure that our ministry efforts will be pleasing to God. The early church led by example in this respect. They worshipped, prayed and fasted, and waited on God before they acted. Let us not limit God’s work to what we can see or plan, but allow Him to establish our steps.
Acts 13:2-3 ESV While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Proverbs 16:9 ESV The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
2. It’s not about perfect plans… it’s about perfect love
Nothing in ministry ever goes 100% according to plan. Equipment may fail, misunderstandings may arise, unintended hurts may occur, budgets may run out, critical tasks may be left undone, emergencies may arise and tempers may flare – often due to spiritual attacks. We can overcome all these as long as we continue to humbly submit to God and stay faithful to the work that He has given us. Our King and Lord will always meet our needs so that His name will be lifted high.
1 John 5:4 ESV For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
The key to serving God joyfully is to:
- Humble ourselves and take on a servant’s heart.
- Praise God in all circumstances.
- Always be prayerful. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
- Be open and flexible, not controlling.
- Check our hearts so that Satan does not use us to stumble others.
God sees beyond time and space and we can trust Him to know exactly when and how to turn things around. It’s not for us to decide what is best, only God knows what that is. We see the circumstances, but God sees the destination.
We must remember that love is the perfect outcome for any Christian service – not how well we plan the logistics, activities and events.
Romans 13:8 ESV Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
3. It’s not about man’s approval… it’s about God’s approval
We all have different motivations for serving in ministry. There are a few that are actually harmful to Christian service.
Self-absorption / idolatry
We can put ourselves in great danger if we are motivated to serve based on our reputations or worldly standards. God calls us to pay careful attention to our attitudes and those He has placed in our care. He rewards us according to our obedience to Him, not to other people or our pride.
Colossians 3:23-24 ESV Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
4. It’s not only about the many… it’s about the few
God wants genuine followers, not crowds of fickle fans. There are numerous examples where Jesus chose to minister to individuals, instead of thousands.
The Bible tells us many are called but few are chosen. It is our egos however, that like to count the “many” people under our care, forgetting that the more people we oversee, the less attention we can pay to the deepening of their faith. We end up filling rooms with fans rather than true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 22:14 ESV For many are called, but few are chosen.”
5. It’s not being busy… it’s about resting in His will
God is not a slave driver. When we neglect to rest, ignore our families or start to grumble, we are no longer a good testimony of our loving Father.
Psalm 46:10 ESV “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Many leaders fall into this trap because it’s hard to say no to meaningful causes or to other people. Sometimes, we simply resist asking for help and delegating our work. As we become frantically busy, we lose focus and mindlessly spin our wheels, trying to catch up with the next item on our diaries. We become enslaved to our calendars and fail to enter God’s rest. One reason we fall into the “busy” trap is that we neglect to seek God first for what new ministries we should say yes or no to. When we don’t ask God first, we no longer lead others by our example. Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Proverbs 29:25 ESV The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
6. It’s not about reaping… it’s about sowing
There may be times when we will never get to see the fruit of our labour. Unlike many occupations, ministry is not manufactured or traded. Only God controls the results. We are simply called to be faithful to our designated portion of God’s much greater plans.
1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
7. It’s not about our age or professional qualifications… it’s about our maturity of faith
God said that He chose the less educated and the less powerful to humble the proud. This is evident in the disciples Jesus chose to groom for His ministry. They included fishermen, a tax collector and a thief. Let us therefore not appoint ministry leaders based on worldly standards, but keep our minds open to who God intends to select.
1 Corinthians 1:27-29 ESV But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being[a] might boast in the presence of God.
8. It’s not about our sacrifices… it’s about Jesus’
If we stop and consider Jesus’ sacrifices on our behalf for a moment, we will realise our sacrifices are so insignificant by comparison. Let us consider the many great things He has done for us and not be petty or calculative towards God.
1 Samuel 12:24 ESV Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.
God loves cheerful givers, not calculative ones. May we humble ourselves before God and serve Him with pure hearts, because He is worthy of all our praise and adoration.
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