Most of you are young and you have a lot of time left to minister. But I can assure you that time flies, and sooner than you think you’ll be doing more looking back on ministry than looking ahead.
On this side of eternity we’ll never be able to fully assess the impact we made. But God is gracious, and sometimes gives us glimpses of how he worked through us. Those are the things that will bring you joy when you look back on a lifetime spent in ministry.
But how does that happen? In this post I want to encourage you toward “ministry with the end in view.” Let me explain.
By choosing to minister with the end in view, I’m talking about preparing your people for eternity. This is what Paul did. He wrote, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:28-29 ESV).
I believe the primary – not the only, but the primary – means to “ministry with the end in view” is a matter of how we choose to preach. That phrase “that we may present everyone mature in Christ” is more than just making sure that people are believers.
We are to preach so that our people come to maturity in Christ. Preach so that they are “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7, ESV). Preach so that they have “. . . the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” Ephesians 1:18-20 (ESV).
You’re not going to do this with sermon series that could be lighter-fare Sunday School topics. You know – the “Five Steps To . . . “ or “Ten Keys to . . .” preaching that seems to be so prevalent today. Preach the text, point your people to the Gospel, and explain how that relates to their lives.
If you do that, your preaching will have “the end in view.” You don’t have to ignore the so-called “practical” themes. In fact they’ll often come up when you preach through a book of the Bible, paragraph by paragraph even. But in the end, if your people can balance a checkbook or live debt free or sketch out a detailed chart of the end times, but they have never understood the meaning of the work of Christ in their lives other than that he’s their ticket to heaven, then somewhere “the end” was sacrificed for the here and now.
But if you choose to focus on ministry with the end in view, you may get an email like this. It will remind you that despite mistakes, despite your own weakness, and despite being perfectly ordinary, God used you where it counted.
“I truly consider you as the single most influential person in my life as it relates to understanding the gospel. Little to do with me but everything to do with what Christ did for me…or, our changed lives is not the gospel but rather it is the gospel first that changes our lives. Not sure these were your words directly but for sure recall growing in my knowledge of the simple yet profound difference through your teaching and leadership.”
This ordinary former pastor treasures those words. Along the way God pointed me toward a more Gospel focused ministry, and I take no credit for that whatsoever. But I do take it as a responsibility to pass on, and that’s what I am doing with these words today.
Brother pastor, make sure that you minister with the end in view. And may God bless you as you work for the faith and maturity of your people.