How to encourage someone to serve or lead
We are all called to be in the ministry of reconciling people to God. Can we picture our mentee hosting a fellowship group, running a prayer roster, facilitating a Bible study or mentoring someone else? It is imperative that those we mentor step up to serve and lead God’s ministries.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NASB Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.…
What keeps people from leading
A church conducted a survey amongst 155 fellowship group members on the question, “What keeps people from volunteering to lead in church groups?“
It was quite telling that almost everyone recognised the need for, and importance of, serving or leading. Many said they just didn’t feel qualified (79%).
Only 15% said they didn’t know how to serve. A quarter said they hadn’t been asked.
Sadly, a large proportion (64%) said they were unable to commit. In this case, it is not a question of ability, but rather a question of the heart. After all, the Bible instructs us to serve another according to our gifts from God Himself.
1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Other major factors are a lack of Bible knowledge (54%) and a fear of failure or of conflict (39%).
Some of these may be real obstacles to serving or leading others in Christ, while others may be “smoke screens”. As mentors, we can help lovingly nurture others to overcome such mind blocks.
PART 1: SELF DISCOVERY
1. Help them discover their gifts
God made everyone gifted uniquely, so they would play their own special role in building up the body of Christ. Once someone understands how God has gifted them uniquely, there is a special sense of purpose and calling that is undeniable.
1 Corinthians 12:18, 27 NIV But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
Author Erik Rees points out in his book, S.H.A.P.E., that every person has their own individual blend of Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences.
- Spiritual Gifts: A set of special abilities that God has given us to share his love and serve others.
- Heart: The special passions God has given us so that we can glorify Him on earth.
- Abilities: The set of talents God gave us when we were born, which He also wants us to use to make an impact for Him.
- Personality: The special way God wired us to navigate life and fulfil our unique Kingdom Purpose.
- Experiences: Those parts of our past, both positive and painful, which God intends to use in great ways.
By helping our mentee understand their SHAPE, he/she may be able to understand how and why they may be wired the way they are. With this, he/she can start on an exciting journey of fulfilling their spiritual calling and purpose in all aspects of their lives; from their family relationships to their vocations and careers.
2. Find out God’s purpose for their lives
God has prepared good works for us to do, long before we knew it! Help our mentee discover what these are and God’s purpose and intention. Is it to allow us to develop a bigger heart for God’s people? Is it because God wants to minister to a particular people group? Encourage our mentee to look out for God’s purposes – it is an exciting journey with the Almighty.
Ephesians 2:10 NIV For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
3. Invite them to lead
Affirm and encourage mentees to sign up for one or two serving opportunities to exercise their SHAPE in different ways. Help them grow wise and confident in serving the Lord.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 NIV Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
PART 2: SELF CHECKS
4. Remind them to take their “work hat” off
Serving others in ministry is very different from managing others as one would in the business world. Our goals are defined by God’s purposes, not by man. Our values are based on the Bible, not on corporate mantra and philosophy. Our goal is always unity in the body, not politics and power plays. It is never about glorifying man but glorifying God.
Remember when Gideon pulled together an army of 32,000 men to fight against the Midians (see Judges 7). God told Gideon he could only have 300 men on his side to fight, and Gideon’s men won convincingly. Such a plan won’t make any sense in the corporate world, but God’s plan is always better. So yes, we do need structures and plans, but we should only set those up after first seeking God, rather than simply mimicking corporate structures from the get-go.
Proverbs 19:21 NIV Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord ’s purpose that prevails.
5. It’s about our hearts, not the results
Time and time again, Christians step into leadership opportunities thinking they have been selected based on their capabilities to deliver results – when it is actually God who allows them to serve alongside with Him. God wants to refine us and make us more like Him.
God is more interested in our hearts than the results or numbers we “produce”. We need to urgently remove this idea of “key performance indicators” in ministry. Think about Jesus. He “downgraded” himself by living amongst us, preached powerfully and died a horrible sensational death. Yet, it is not the majority who believe in Him today. It is only a small minority who cling to the faith today. As a work-based KPI, would that be considered a success?
We must be careful not to define results as the world sees results. If God had planned for our mentee to serve just 2 persons and not 1,000, that is praiseworthy. If He wants them to spend a season of praying for the church behind the scenes, that is ok too. It is important we serve God within His intended purposes.
Proverbs 23:26 NIV My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways
6. Address personal issues, so ministry does not become an idol
Every servant of God will at some time, have thought one of the following:
- “I want this ministry to be as perfect as I can make it”
- “I can’t help but secretly enjoy the respect I get from others by serving God”
- “I know how this ministry should be run, and other people should listen to me”
- “Other people are so ungrateful for what I have done”
- “I am fearful or anxious every time I serve”
- “I am in this position of leadership because of my abilities”
No matter how good our intentions are, our own sinful natures may get in the way. Such thoughts often happen when there are gaps in our security in Christ, that we hope to plug with other things that make us feel good about ourselves. Our positions in ministry or what other people think can become more important to us, than God Himself. Spiritual pride is a subtle but deadly trap, it separates us from God’s purposes and ability to use us in truly beautiful ways. May we never allow our hearts to become hard and proud.
Proverbs 28:26 NIV Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
Serving others should literally be a “thankless job”, because we don’t get our true rewards on earth but with God in heaven. If we place our faith in our works, rather than God, there is a real danger we become disillusioned and embittered. As we grow closer to Jesus, we will learn to serve His people unconditionally.
6. Remind them to lean on the Holy Spirit
For life change to happen, we must allow the Holy Spirit do His work through us, not only for the sake of those we minister to but for ourselves as well. The fruit we bear based on God’s love is eternal. The results we try to create in people’s lives based on ourselves will be temporal.
John 15:5 NIV “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
PART 3: SELF DEVELOPMENT
8. Allow them to own their decisions
One critical but difficult aspect of mentoring is allowing our mentees to make their own decisions, even when we don’t agree with them – unless their decisions are sinful ones of course.
9. Make sure they stay accountable
Ensure that our mentee continues to grow in their knowledge of the Word and in their personal relationship with God. Pray for them and find out how they are faring in their ministry.
10. Teach perseverance
Encourage our mentee to persevere during difficult ministry situations. It is actually such testing that we get to grow the most in our faith, and have our characters refined.
If necessary, encourage our mentee to study the Bible on how to handle conflict and identify ways that Satan works to destroy healthy ministries. We must remember that as children of God, we all work on the same team. It’s Satan we should be united against, not each other or the very people that God wants us to reconcile back to Him.
1 Peter 1:6-7 NIV In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
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