How to Be Successful in Ministry
Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps this heading takes you by surprise. You have come to know, over many years from my writing and preaching, that this is not the kind of language you expect to hear from me. I am using this language, however, quite intentionally, though I hope momentarily to discount the man-centered sound of it.
By success I, of course, do not mean what modernity or the CEO corporate model of leadership means by the term. By success I do not necessarily mean that you have lots of money and stuff, or as a pastor you have a large congregation with a multiple staff and a massive church building, or as an evangelist you preach regularly to thousands of people.
By success I mean what Paul defined as success. He was able to tell the Romans that in ten years he had completed his ministry, having preached from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum, modern day Croatia (Romans 15:18, 19). Paul established churches in four Roman provinces in that time period — Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia Minor. Within three years he had established ten churches in Asia Minor alone. He said, while imprisoned in Rome, awaiting execution, that he had fought the good fight, that he had finished his course, that he had kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). So, Biblical success is finishing your life, looking back, and being able to say that you have maximized your gifts and calling for the glory of God, for the expansion of Christ’s church, for the extension of Christ’s kingdom, for the salvation and sanctification of every member of your family. Buildings, bodies, and budgets are not the issue. So, how can you be successful in a Biblical fashion?
Allow me to remind you, my friends, that you are totally inadequate for this task. The world is against you. So is the devil. And your flesh or indwelling sin has no desire to cooperate with you in your desire to be successful in your ministry. The good that you wish to do, you do not do; but you do the very evil you do not want. But when you do the things you do not want, you have come to realize that it is not you doing it, but sin which indwells you (Romans 7:19, 20). And, of course, Jesus said, ‘Apart from Me, you can do nothing,’ (John 15:5).
After the Holy Spirit was poured out on the one hundred and twenty in the Upper Room who had been praying ten days for power, the former coward, the Apostle Peter, preached with Holy Spirit power. The people were pierced in the heart and cried out, ‘What must we do?’ Peter’s answer to them was threefold. They were to repent of their sins. They were to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. And they were to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. But how is it possible for anyone to repent unless the Holy Spirit quickens them to do so? Regeneration precedes conversion (repenting and believing). But after conversion, they receive justifying grace, being declared not guilty, being given the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. And then they receive the Holy Spirit who gives them the power to walk in newness of life.
This falls in line with what Ezekiel prophesied in Ezekiel 36:25-27.1 So, when God brings a person from darkness to light, from death to life, He gives them the heart of Jesus in regenerating grace, the righteousness of Jesus in justifying grace, and the holiness of Jesus in sanctifying grace.
But what happens when we sin, which, of course, we do daily? Sin separates you from God (Isaiah 59:1, 2; Psalm 66:18). You may have been married for forty or fifty years and deeply love your spouse, and would never entertain the possibility of divorce, but surely you have had times of sinful action toward your spouse. When that occurs, you are not in fellowship. There is a coldness, a separation, or perhaps a hardness of heart in your marriage. What must you do? You must admit to your spouse what you have done, confess it, and ask forgiveness.
In the same way, you gain Holy Spirit power in your life and ministry in a threefold fashion. In that definitive moment of conversion you repented, received the forgiveness of your sins by the blood of Jesus applied to your soul, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. In a progressive fashion, as you move through your spiritual life, when you sin, you must daily repent, and then receive the forgiveness of your sins, and once again receive the Holy Spirit who empowers you to obey God’s word. In other words, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him (Colossians 2:6).
Practically speaking, it goes like this. Wake up every morning and say to God, ‘O Lord, I dedicate all that I have to You for this day. Please fill me with Your Holy Spirit.’ Then spend time reading and meditating on the word of God, asking God to speak to your heart. And pray revival prayer for your family, church, business, and ministry.2 And then go on your way to work on whatever duties you must accomplish for the day. As you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will have a keen sensitivity to your sin. Your spirit will be grieved by your sin, and when this happens obey the promptings of the Spirit. Repent of your sins. Name them specifically. God promises then to forgive you of your sins and all your unrighteousness (1 John 1:9; Acts 2:38). God also promises to give you the Holy Spirit. Now, you never lose the Holy Spirit once you are born again, but you certainly can forfeit His power and influence in your life by your sin. You must have His power afresh and anew. You gain it again by repentance.
The Holy Spirit seems to be the most neglected person of the Godhead, but you need Him desperately. Your only hope of Biblical success hinges on His sanctifying, empowering, convicting, converting, sanctifying presence and power. Seek Him daily.
Al Baker is an Evangelistic Revival Preacher with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
- ‘Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. . . I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. . . I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.’
- My book Revival Prayer: A Needed Paradigm Shift in Today’s Church gives details on what I mean by this term.
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