Ministry is hard. It is unpredictable, and sometimes even when the ministry is fruitful, that is harder still. I said that the biblical principle behind fruit is multiplication, so if you are going to be fruitful, you have to plan to multiply. Honestly, I think most of us plan to add.
Fruit exceeding all expectations:
So what happens when your fruit exceeds your expectations? Well, it rots. That is the sad truth. Fruit that is left lying around doesn't grow, or multiply, or even add. It rots. A ministry that does not plan to multiply, probably ends up with a bunch of rotten fruit. What does this look like? In a church, it looks like a revolving door – people who come, and then leave because they don't plug in. It can look like a congregation that is mostly spectators or that are complainers. It can look like people expecting the church to do for them, rather than them serving others with the church. At the end, it probably looks like a church that has stopped growing or has started to recede.
How do you plan for growth? You have to start with your resources. How are we going to use the resources we have? How can we make new believers? How can we take new believers and equip them to serve in simple capacities? How can we equip them to share their faith? How can we equip them to lead others? How can we equip them to be a shepherd? What are these time lines like? How then having equipped them, can we provide opportunities to serve, to share, to lead, to shepherd? How can we continue to encourage them in each of these activities and roles until they mature?
Back to our resources! What are our resources? What collection of gifted and talented individuals has God provided to carry out His work? Do we have resources who are ready to share their faith and lead people to Christ? Do we have people who can mentor and disciple new believers? Do we have people who can lead them in service opportunities? Do we have resources for training people in leadership? As God produces fruit from our labor, we get new resources; new gifts and talents to add to our resource pool. Who is the manager of the resource pool? Who knows what untapped gifts and talents we have available? Who understands the resource needs that we have in terms of gifts and talents?
Why all the questions?:
Because God doesn't have just one way for His ministries to work. He didn't prescribe any methods. He expects us to figure it out. At Pentecost, when 3000 believers were added to the church, do you think that the Apostles had a plan? Probably not. But pretty soon they figured out that they needed Deacons to help serve. I hope that my short list of questions has stimulated to think differently about ministry.
I don't believe that there is one surefire way to make ministry work. I am convinced that failing to plan is planning to fail. I don't mean that all details have to be known in advance, but if God expects us to fulfill the great commission, then we should at least have a plan that reflects our understanding of our intention to do so.
Changing the plan:
So what happens, when the plan doesn't produce fruit? Maybe its time to change the plan? Maybe our methods are not relevant to the community we are trying to reach.
Maybe we have organized differently than the resources that God has provided. Maybe its time to adjust the plan to improve the harvest.
Know the plan:
If a ministry had a plan to fulfill the great commission, and everyone who was involved in the ministry knew the plan, and how their role was key to the success of the plan, how do you think those people would feel about the ministry, and their role in it? If there was a plan that very few people were aware of, how would that help the rest of the people who were involved? Not much.
How many churches or ministries have you experienced that had a plan like this? How many have you heard of? I have been a member at a few churches, some big, others small, and none of them have had a plan to use all the resources that God provides to produce the maximum fruit. If the plan existed, it was so poorly communicated that nobody knew the plan. If the plan existed, it was so poorly executed that it was not recognized as a plan. I have heard of churches that think like this, but I have not seen their plan. How excited would you be if you were serving at a church that knew how it was going to fulfill the great commission? Me too.
One last question:
Can you imagine a church or ministry that has a plan that answered all of the questions above not being a truly awesome expression of God's power in the community? Can you imagine that the people involved in that ministry or church are not totally excited about the ministry? I guess that was two questions…