Counting the Cost of Ministry
by Chaplain Dan Langerock
I walked into a restaurant the other day when my chaplain's badge was on, and someone said, "I want to be a chaplain also". Ministry may look glamorous but it is not. There is a lot of study and hard work to get to the point where you can minister effectively. Let's examine some of the things that are required to be a successful minister:
Some people have a mindset about what they should learn and block out anything else. You need to be teachable by those in authority over you as you are learning your studies as well as the Holy Spirit. Your whole life will be learning more and more so you can be close to God. If you are not close to Him you cannot direct others to be in that state.
Some ministers are governed by a church board, others are licensed by a group, but the point is that there is a system in place for the minister to be accountable to someone. In my case, I have a Teaching Chaplain over me and an organization, Healthcare Chaplains of America. Both of these were involved in my five years of training to be a chaplain besides the time I spent in Bible College. Those ministers who do not have accountability to someone are in danger of going into areas of bad doctrine as well as other problems. A term for this type of minister is "Lone Ranger" because he has no one to be accountable to.
Allows himself to be changed
Part of the reason to go to Bible College rather than other means of securing a degree in ministry is to allow God to change you as you go through your studies. We all know people who have gone to church for many years but never change for the better. The same can be true for a minister. Both of these need to be changed by the Holy Spirit as they grow spiritually. Without growth, there is stagnation.
I had this problem at first when I started Bible College. I was so anxious to get going in ministry that I didn't want to wait to let God do His work in me. I felt I had waited too long to become a minister and I needed to catch up somehow. But my professor saw this in me and cautioned me to allow God to work in my life as I went through the courses of study.
God is always working in us to change us for the better so we can be closer to Him than before. It is never a matter of being perfect but of being perfected gradually. The closer a person is to God, the more able they are to know His Will for their life and pray accordingly. God knows what is good for us to have and what is not, therefore when we are closer to God, we can discern better what is best for us to pray for than when we are not close to Him.
One of my professors said it this way, "Everyone wants to be up here on the platform preaching, but not everyone has something to say." Part of the changing process of going through a course of study is the humbling of the pride and other problems in a person's life that can make problems later on in ministry. These need to be dealt with as they surface, and time is required, not impatience.
All people see of the ministry is the supposed glory of being up on the pulpit expounding God's Word, but they don't see the rudimentary items that brought that person to where they are now. The process that changed the person into a good example instead of a bad one. If you recall, the apostle Paul in the New Testament several times asked his readers to "follow my example". That is a bold statement he could not have made unless he had allowed the Holy Spirit to change him.
Maybe you feel called into ministry. Jesus said, "the fields are white unto harvest, pray the Father to send forth reapers.:" He also said, "Many are called but few are chosen." Over the years I have observed many people who wanted to be a chaplain but they didn't show up to be trained. It is like someone who gets a job but refuses to come to work. What's the point! Just showing up for work in the Master's fields is the beginning. Do you have what it takes to be a minister? Do you have the discipline and other ingredients that are needed to be successful. Only time will tell by how you conduct yourself toward the training process and beyond.
Don't jump into ministry impulsively. God states in the book of Timothy in the New Testament that those who teach are more accountable to God than those who do not. It is a great responsibility to teach others. Your own life needs to be an example of what you are teaching or it will not be effective but a source of ridicule. Look at your life honestly and work on those areas that are not a good example at the moment. Allow God to change you as you are praying about being a minister.
Remember, that not only clergy can minister, the body of Christ also needs lay people who will encourage and minister to people. The job of ministry is for everyone who proclaims to be a true Christian, not just the pastors of our world. Practice as a lay person first and prove yourself faithful there, then pray about going to the next step. God can use you or anyone only when they are obedient. This is the defining word of ministry--obedience to God.
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