Weatherford Democrat

December 7, 2012

COLUMN: God's method for ministry

The Rev. Lou Tiscione
CNHI

— “He (the Lord) bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under His feet. He rode on a cherub and flew; He came swiftly on the wings of the wind. He made darkness His covering, His canopy around Him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before Him hailstones and coals of fire broke through His clouds.” Psalm 18:9-12, ESV David wrote these words and through them painted a picture of the awesomeness of God. His description of God laid the foundation for the succeeding verses that declare God’s holy judgment! The true God whom David described will execute perfect justice.

As a pastor called by God and sent by the church to preach and teach His word and shepherd His people, I often ask, “How much of this God is really proclaimed in churches?” It has been said over the centuries by theologians and philosophers that man’s most basic need is to know God and oneself. Accurate knowledge of man proceeds from the revealed truth of God.

Knowing God and ourselves in relationship to Him connect our hearts to our heads. That is, making this connection motivates how we live. Ministry practices in the church begin with the revealed knowledge of God and continue as that knowledge is applied to all life situations.

The verses quoted are revealed truth. God is full of majesty. He is the one who created everything and therefore owns everything. All life is lived before Him. Therefore, it follows that all Christian ministry which is service is performed in light of and because of the knowledge of God.

On the occasion of my graduation from seminary our Commencement Speaker, Dr. J.I. Packer said, “Do not seek to interpret Scripture until you have been interpreted by Scripture.” As a minister of the gospel I am made constantly aware that my study and preparation to preach and teach the Bible is the means that God uses to change me. My conviction by the Spirit of God occurs prior to standing in the pulpit.

King David was living proof that God’s word in concert with His Spirit changed him. He wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about the God he worshiped. In the verses quoted from Psalm 18, David wrote not only of God’s supreme majesty but also of His holy justice. Like David, we all live before this God.

In addition, the book attributed to David’s son, Solomon, says this about God’s method for life and ministry, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7.

Both King David and Solomon understood the fear of the LORD and were caused see their lives in the light of God’s word. Likewise, as we combine God’s revelation of: His awesomeness, His holy justice with the source of knowledge and understanding we discover that “fear of the LORD” is the root of life and ministry in the church.

God revealed His method for ministry. His method is this: learn who He is and apply His revealed character in every situation. God’s method stands in stark contrast to Man’s. Men suggest that proper and effective ministry in the church requires that we learn what people need and then set out to meet those needs. This has proven to grow churches larger. Yet, growing numbers does not appear to accomplish growing influence, growing holiness, or the ability to make critical decisions. When we use man’s methods we get man’s results. But when we use God’s methods, we see His results.

One problem with man’s methods is: each new circumstance requires a new program to answer it. The church becomes a program generator rather than a place where the truth is heard, lived and shared. I believe that we are seeing the results of man’s methods. More and more professing Christians are unable to articulate what they believe or why. Surveys reveal that the lifestyles of church members look like the lifestyles of the world.   

My purpose in this article is not to “bash” churches. I love the church and all that she represents. I love the church so much that I believe that I am accountable to God to briefly outline His means to make us more like Christ. This is what it means to follow Jesus.