Pastor Joshua M. Hall
Convictions About Effective Ministry
Only God’s Word can create life, both in creation recorded in Genesis 1-2 and in regeneration described in John 3. To be born again one must encounter God’s Word in the scriptures. (Romans 10:14) In evangelism, extra-biblical evidence may open doors for conversation, but only the preaching, teaching and sharing of God’s Word is effectively used by the Holy Spirit to grant saving faith.
Only God’s Word can sanctify His people. (Ephesians 5:26, II Timothy 3:16) Whether preached, taught, counseled, mentored, memorized, studied, meditated upon or proclaimed through the sacraments, only God’s Word effects sanctifying changes in the life of the church.
Only God’s church can properly care for God’s sheep. (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:25) The three marks of the church are the preaching of God’s Word, the sacraments, and church discipline. But the church is much more than that. It is the body of Christ with many members who are each gifted and called to build one another up. (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12)
Only God has the right to direct the church. Christ is the head of the church. (Ephesians 5:23) Our authority is derived from the commands of Christ. Our primary task is to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded in all of the scriptures. (Matthew 28:18-20, II Timothy 3:16-17)
Only through relationships can we expect God’s Word to be effective. As one of my professors used to say, change occurs when truth and relationship intersect. (I Thessalonians 2:8) Jesus did not merely die a sacrificial death, nor did he simply teach theological truths. He loved and cared for people in relationships. He lived his 3 years of ministry life-on-life with the disciples. So we must make disciples by living with and loving others. Both Christian fellowship and community life among unbelievers are key to completing the mission of God. (Mark 2:16)
Only God defines proper worship. (Exodus 26, Leviticus 10, Psalm 24:3-5, Isaiah 1, 6, John 4:24) Our worship must be God-centered, not man-centered. This means that worship services are not to be crafted for our enjoyment or for evangelism (the seeker-sensitive movement’s error). Proper worship does, however, include gospel preaching to sinners and a call to God’s people for repentance and worship. Biblically commanded elements of worship include: call to worship, singing, reading of scripture, confession of sin, assurance of forgiveness, collecting tithes and offerings, confession of faith, preaching of God’s Word, and a benediction (blessing).
A Model For Church Ministry
In addition to the traditional functions of reformed churches (roles of elders and deacons, church discipline, weekly worship services, prayer meetings, etc.) which nearly all conservative churches embrace, I believe every church must be intentional about five things: Biblical worship, discipleship, the ministry of the Word, mercy ministry, and Christian fellowship.
In my current position as interim pastor of a small reformed church, I have worked hard to help our congregation develop means of participating in these five areas of ministry. I did not bring in a cookie-cutter approach. Good leadership does not impose one model of ministry from a successful church on another. Each church is unique. So I began by listening. What is God already doing in the hearts of His people here? What would they like to see done? How are they gifted? What are the needs of the community which are not being met?
Our congregation has strong corporate worship, fellowship, and ministry of the Word. Our monthly potlucks and weekly Bible studies provide opportunities for members to study God’s Word and build relationships with one another. But we are weak in evangelism and mercy ministry. As I got to know the people better, I learned that they have a heart for ministry to the elderly. We have a nursing home ministry, and we have decided to expand that ministry and be more intentional about serving the elderly as a congregation.
We have also worked to build relationships with the lost in our town. We invited the public to our Ultimate Frisbee nights, prayer meetings, and Men’s and Women’s Bible studies. We have tried not to duplicate the outreach ministries of other evangelical congregations in our town. As a member of the local ministerial alliance, I am working to make sure that when mercy needs are met in our community, an evangelical pastor is contacted and given the opportunity to share Christ with the recipient and invite them to church.
In addition to building programs so our congregation can reach our community, I have started frequenting a small restaurant in town to meet people. Last week I was invited to join a running club and attend a tailgate party with my family at a local high school football game. This type of informal networking has opened doors for spiritual conversations.
My model for ministry is simple. We must worship God according to His directions in the scriptures. And we must focus on the main tasks given to the church for ministry. How we make disciples and love our neighbors depends on the opportunities, needs, and gifts of the local church and community.