What Comes Out Is Determined By What Goes In

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

Psalm 119:11

One of the simplest but most effective principles that every follower of Christ needs to learn is that “What comes out of our lives is determined by what goes in.”  Let me illustrate what I mean with an example from my childhood. When I was a kid my dad and I used to fish in the Ohio River near my hometown of Steubenville, OH.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with that area, the Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monogahela river at Pittsburgh, PA, initially flowing north until it takes a sharp left turn, reversing it’s direction and flowing south.  This change in the course of the river forms the northern panhandle of the state of West Virginia.  Back in the 1960’s and 70’s the banks of this river from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, WV was dotted with giant steel mills.  Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve floating down the Ohio River in my dad’s boat catching large mouth bass, catfish, carp, and even the occasional walleye.  In spite, of what you might think the fishing was actually pretty good back then but there was one key rule that we always observed.  We never ate any of the fish that came out of that river!  The reason was that many of those steel mills and the other industrial plants that lined the banks of that river dumped polluted waste into the waters of the river.  Due to that fact, the fish that came out of the river were dangerous, perhaps even deadly to eat.  What went into the river determined what was coming out of it.  The same principle holds true in our spiritual lives.  Let me flesh that out a little bit for you.

If there is nothing coming into your life, nothing is going to be able to flow out. 

The Ohio river is a massive river but it depends on the flow from the Monogahela, the Allegheny, and hundreds of other smaller streams and creeks for its water supply.  If we were to suddenly cut off the waters from these sources from flowing into the Ohio, the river would quickly dry up and cease to flow.  That is the way it is with your life.  If you don’t maintain a constant inflow of spiritual resources into your life you will quickly dry up.   It would be shocking to most Christians to realize  how quickly this process can occur if the inflow was immediately cut off.  But what usually happens is that problems and concerns of life simply mount up and slowly cut off the inflow from our lives.  Like cholesterol slowly and imperceptibly building up in our arteries over the course of years, so to will the problem of ministry clog up the spiritual arteries of our hearts if we are not careful.  

If we are going to fix this fundamental problem we must focus on the inflow of our lives.  A couple of months ago the doctor told me that I have high cholesterol, in addition to putting me on Lipitor, he also told me to go on a low fat, high fiber diet that will help to reduce the inflow of bad cholesterol into my blood stream.  The same basic principle holds true in our spiritual lives.  If we want to have a healthy spiritual life we need to cut down on the fat and increase the healthy spiritual food that we take in.  That means that we need to her serious about maintaining our Bible reading and study.  It means that we need to cut down on the time we invest in entertainment and start digging deeper into the things of God.  

Pastors Need to Learn How to Accomplish More By Doing Less

Jesus teaching, All Saints, Landbeach
Jesus teaching, All Saints, Landbeach (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

Learn to Accomplish More by Doing Less

 

If you’re like me you probably are finding yourself increasingly overwhelmed and bombarded by technology.  Technology is a wonderful thing but it has taken the ability to multi-task to almost unbelievable levels.  While technology has opened incredible doors and opportunities, it has also eroded our ability to focus. What has ended up happening is that in some cases technology is causing us to do more but accomplish less.  Over the past few years, I have witnessed something similar happening to many Pastors.

 

One of the primary issues that I see facing most Pastors is that they are simply trying to accomplish too much.  Rather than focusing on doing a few things very well, they settle for having a lot of activity with very little quality. The simple truth, however, us that we need to learn how to accomplish more by doing less.

 

At the beginning of the week I shared a post entitled “Attention Pastors: Working Harder Isn’t Always the Answer.”  In that post, I shared the story of John, who is a hard-working and dedicated Pastor who is literally wearing himself out and ruining his family because he is working so hard in the ministry.  John is very frustrated by the fact that he is working 60-65 hours a week in the ministry even to the point of neglecting his family but still the church remains plateaued.  The issue that John is facing is that even though he is working hard, his efforts aren’t producing any results.  What John needs to do is to learn the key of accomplishing more by doing less.

 

John doesn’t realize it but he has taken his church as far as he alone is able to take it.  In other words, he has reached the limit of his own ability to keep up with the congregation. He has spent twelve years as the Pastor of New Antioch Baptist Church, but has given very little effort in training and equipping his lay leadership.  Even when the church went out and hired an Associate Pastor to help him, John refused to give over any of his responsibilities.  John is working as hard as he can but no matter what he does, he can only do the work of one man.  What he needs to do is to stop working harder and start working smarter.  Simply put, John needs to learn the art of accomplishing more by doing less.

 

If John is going to move the church off this plateau he must reconsider what his primary tasks are as a minister.  In Ephesians 4:12, the Apostle Paul says that the role of the Pastor is to, “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  This means that as Pastors, our primary goal is not to do the work of the ministry on behalf of the church, but rather to equip the saints so that they can carry out the work of the ministry.  John has been so busy doing the work that he has given little attention to the work of equipping the saints.  If he wants the church to move off this plateau and to once again start growing he will need to invest heavily in equipping others to take over the ministry.  That means that he will have to stop doing some of the busy work that is keeping him from accomplishing his primary task and focus on equipping others to do the ministry.

 

Jesus teaching in the temple
Jesus teaching in the temple (Photo credit: freestone)

Invest More Time in Equipping Others to Do the Ministry

 

No matter what area of the ministry we serve in — whether it be as Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Minister of Music, Minister of Youth etc.— our primary task is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  The word translated as equip means to makes someone completely adequate or capable for carrying out a task.  There are many ways that we can carry out this task.  For instance, we can do at least part of this task through the teaching and pulpit ministry.  But effective Pastors know that more ministry skills are caught and not taught.  In other words, while we certainly need to give ample time to teaching about the ministry from the pulpit we also need to spend time personally mentoring and training church members for the work of ministry.

 

Bruce is a good example of how effective this approach to ministry can be.  Bruce has a simple but powerful philosophy that guides his ministry— never do anything in the ministry alone.  He lives out this simple philosophy by inviting church members to take part in the ministry with him through the week.  Bruce began this simple process many years ago, by simply inviting one of his deacons named Sam to have lunch with him once a week and go make a few hospital visits together.  It wasn’t long before Bruce realized that Sam was starting to take the lead on hospital visits and was mentoring one of the other Pastors.  “The whole thing started by accident,” says Bruce, “I was just looking for someone to go visiting with but it ended up being so effective that I just started doing it all the time.”  After about six months of mentoring Sam, Bruce decided to start meeting with another one of his deacons named Ted.  Once again, within about six months Ted started taking over and mentoring another deacon.

 

“It took about two years,” says Bruce, “but we eventually had all the deacons involved in actively meeting with another deacon and making hospital visits. So we began to focus on taking this ministry beyond the deacon board.”  Bruce set a goal of developing an active mentorship program through the deacons, in which, he equipped them to mentor and disciple other men in the church.  The effects were startling, soon the women in the church were looking for a similar program and the deacons wives began a similar mentorship program.  Today, nearly 70% of the church is involved in the mentorship ministry. The effects on the ministry have been startling.

 

Rather than spending all of his time doing the work of the ministry, Bruce started to focus on equipping others for the work of the ministry.  It did not take long for this to expand far beyond what Bruce could have accomplished alone.  It did not take long before Bruce started to notice organic ministries begin to grow up within the church.  One group started to minister to the homeless, another to unwed mothers.  Soon there was a group of men visiting prisoners in the jail and women who were volunteering to cook meals for the homeless.  Sunday School teachers began to adopt the equipping model of ministry by training new teachers who served as assistants and started new groups.

 

The most important difference between Bruce and John becomes clear when you ask them about whether they enjoy the ministry.  For John the ministry has become a burden.  It is wearing him out, ruining his family, and sucking the joy right out of his soul.  But for Bruce, the ministry has never been more enjoyable.  The difference is not in their locations, the personality of their churches, and certainly not in the God they serve.  The difference is in their approach.  John has decided to approach the ministry thinking that he must do all the work.  Bruce, on the other hand, has decided to approach the ministry with a Biblical mindset of equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry.  John is trying to do ministry by giving it more gas, whereas, Bruce has decided to give the church some traction upon which it can move forward.

Which path are you going down?

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