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Ten Marks Of Effective Ministers

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 32

Effective Ministers…

1. Maintain a vibrant relationship with Christ to the very end.

Effective ministers recognize that a regular practice of spiritual disciplines and an ongoing development of personal faith is the most important thing in their ministry.

2. Live with an expectancy of repeated renewal.

Repeated ministry experiences have taught effective ministers that they should expect and welcome God’s working in their lives—whatever the circumstances.  Indeed, effective ministers recognize that His repeated—and sometimes painful—working in their lives is His way to develop greater spiritual and character formation.

3. Live the truth of God in such a way that his convictions and trust in God’s faithfulness is real. 

Having experienced the pain of standing alone for the unchangeable Truth of God as revealed in the inspired Scriptures and having experienced the fear of ultimate failure and rejection, effective ministers discover that God has been more than faithful.

They know God is real, God is present, God is active, and God has been repeatedly faithful to them. They live by the conviction that there is nothing that can happen to them that God won’t somehow deliver them as His gracious will determines. Such confidence propels them through each episode of their ministry, regardless of the circumstances.

4. Maintain a learning posture throughout life and enjoy learning from various sources.

Recognizing that wisdom comes from continued learning, effective ministers have a sharp eye and an insatiable curiosity to expand their learning. Whether through formal experiences (e.g. academic degrees) or through informal means (e.g. reading), continuing education provides effective ministers with one of the greatest sources of enjoyment and growth.

5. Have multiple mentors.

How many mentors have you had in your ministry? Who are those who presently give you the encouragement and coaching in your ministry? J. Robert Clinton suggests that over a lifetime, fifteen is not too many. I would agree.

Effective ministers have sought—and still seek—mentors for various areas of their ministry. From these gifted individuals, effective ministers learn how to strengthen their ministries by reflecting on their mentor’s insights and following in their footsteps.

6. Have a dynamic, vital, and changing philosophy of ministry.

Every decade of my ministry in the United States has seen a major shift in philosophy of ministry from Sunday School busses (1960’s), door-to-door evangelism (1970’s), Church Growth (1980’s), Leadership development (1990’s), and what I believe will be the emphasis in the first decade of the new millennium, congregational and pastoral health.

In my twelve years in my present congregation, I have also experienced at least four major shifts in philosophy of ministry based on the needs, resources, challenges and opportunities which God had given in those times. Effective ministers recognize that there’s more than just one way to do ministry. Thus they are in a mode of continually looking for and adapting the most effective philosophy of ministry for their time and place.

7. Minister from a broad perspective of an awareness that whatever occurs in ministry is part of a larger destiny which God has planned for them.

If there’s any experience that teaches us that we do not shape our own destiny, it’s the Christian ministry. Isaiah, speaking by the Holy Spirit, said it better than anyone. “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4 NIV)

8. View selection, development and empowerment of leadership among their highest ministry priorities.

The effective leader has learned that effective, healthy ministry is not a one-man show. Instead, it consists in viewing relationships as the means and end of effective ministry implementation. Anything of lasting value and impact in the church happens, by God’s design, through a continuous process of developing an ever-enlarging sphere of healthy relationships directed, encouraged, and deployed into effective Kingdom service. Take a member out for lunch this week…(and if you do it often, be sure to eat lots of salad!).

9. View their present ministry from a life-long perspective by which they continue growing in an ever-expanding awareness of God’s destiny for them.

Effective ministers are not constantly looking for the greener grass of other churches or ministries. Instead, they embrace a contentment of serving God which comes from a sense that they really are serving God. Whether its where they are now or somewhere else really doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the unmistakable conviction that they understand that God sees their ministry from the perspective of an entire lifetime. This perspective helps them to move away from short-term perspective of gains or losses toward a broader perspective that sees conflict, decline, growth and peace as part of the normal, expected congregational life cycle.

Furthermore, effective ministers recognize that if God really wants them somewhere, there’s nothing they can do to stop it. God builds His Church as He chooses, according to His plan. Our destiny is to be willing to let the Potter shape and mold the clay in ways only He can determine are best. Jack Hayford said it best,

“God is not so much interest in what I am now 
as He is in what I am becoming.”
 

10. Leave behind one or more ultimate contributions—a lasting legacy.

Do effective leaders intentionally plan a lasting legacy? Perhaps one can’t always say.   There are many examples of ordinary people who, without being placed in extraordinary circumstances, would not be considered heroes. Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, and many biblical figures such as Queen Esther, Moses, Joseph, St. Paul, and Mary, Jesus’ mother are just some which come to mind.

What characterizes those with lasting legacies is that they weren’t looking for self-aggrandizement. However, whenever God provided an opportunity, a “fire within them,” they addressed the situation with faith, boldness and the assurance only that God would be with them. God used their humility of faith and made from them a lasting legacy.

Effective leaders have an eye for God’s personal leading in their lives;they are also willing to put out extraordinary efforts and sacrifice to follow that leading. It is, I believe, this quiet—but relentless--seeking after the heart of God for God’s personal calling for their lives that causes effective ministers examine their God-given gifts and experiences. Then, in their humble response to the awe of God’s grace,  these ministers fulfill their God-given unquenchable passion in a way that results in a lasting legacy.

Some ministers will have few lasting legacies; others have many. In the end, how many one has depends entirely on the talents which God has graciously given to His servants (Matthew 25:14ff). Whatever legacy He has in mind for us, our greatest response is simply to be faithful to His calling.

Thomas F. Fischer

MH Editor's Note: For further reading I suggest chapter 10 of George Barna’s Book, Leaders on Leadership, in which J. Robert Clinton and Richard W. Clinton discuss the “Life Cycle of a Leader.”

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:03 PM