What Will Twenty-First Century Ministers Do?

by Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with these credit lines noted--this article originally appeared in the Fort Gibson (OK)Church of Christ bulletin, was printed in "Ministry" magazine published at Oklahoma Christian University, is currently available on-line at URL "http://www.oc.edu/colleges/bible/ministry/articles/21stCent.htm", and is made available here for ease of reference]

In our fast-paced world, concepts of ministry are rapidly and radically changing. Even our terminology is changing. Minister is frequently preferred to evangelist or preacher. Some surveys suggest ministers are least likely to influence the unchurched of our society. What is needed is ministry wherein average members work in the structures of society to identify needs and share the gospel.

So what will ministers do in a "once and future" world? They must minister, model, and mentor. No words better inform ministry in any century than Paul's instructions to Timothy. Three aspects of ministry--pathfinding, implementing, and problem solving--are suggested by the management model of Harold Leavitt.

I. MINISTRY--Ministers are pathfinders.
How does one find one's way through a hostile world? Ministry has always demanded persons equipped with the biblical story, understanding how that message translates into the reality of our world. Ministers have a ministry of the word (Acts 6:2). First ministers must hear and apply God's Word in their own lives before they can with integrity assist other pilgrims in that task (1 Tim. 4:6,16).

Scripture is for proclamation. Proclamation is primary. Second, ministers must proclaim the word of God's grace so that unsaved souls can be saved by the faith developed from proclamation. Ministers must proclaim the word of God's grace so that saved souls can be equipped, edified, and effective. Ministers identify the trail Jesus blazed and constantly point to it. That need is unending, that task in never out of style. Ministers will always face the task of understanding the faith.

II. MODELING--Ministers are implementers.
How does one implement God's message in one's life? How does one practice Christianity in a world such as ours? Ministers who attend to God's speech and actions to inform their life and ministry both in the world and in the church set an example for others (1 Tim. 4. 4:12,15). Personal reflection on Scripture enables preachers to be pathfinders so that those who follow them follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). In applying Scripture to life, preachers implement the faith. The word is of no value unless it is applied. Hearing must bring faith. Believing must generate response.

Ministers who apply the written word of Scripture to live like the living Word (Jesus) practice incarnational ministry. Only an incarnational church can influence our world for Christ. Only when life and logic, practice and plea match will others notice. Ministers will always face the task of applying the faith.

III. MENTORING--Ministers are problem solvers.
Even when the proclaimed word points out the Christian path, and the implementation of the message is modeled in incarnational ministry, problems will arise. Not everyone will get it right all of the time. Ministers must give specific spiritual direction.

This is the most difficult task and least practiced aspect in ministry. Effective ministry here depends upon doing the first two tasks well. Has the minister diligently followed the calling to ministry in the word? Has the minister allowed that word to change his own life? One cannot fake it here. Ignorance of God's speech and lack of integrity in one's personal life will surface. Consistency and competence will become obvious.

Ministry in the new millennium must face "a whole new world." The task of ministry is to move beyond preaching to become a transparent example of what it means to live for Jesus and to help others in that task. Ministers will always be called to help others apply the faith in specific, difficult situations.

Two options are available. Ministers will either speak God's Word and incarnate God's Word in such a way that others can both hear and see, or the multitudes will conclude that "there is no word from God." May God guide us who preach toward effective ministry of the first type!

Go to Articles Index

Return to Home Page

Last updated November 21, 2001.