A new year; a new ministry?

I am and activist, and I love the opportunity to start something new. I enjoy the prospect of a new beginning; I love the dreaming and optimism that so often comes with initiating a new project, however I am becoming increasingly aware of a growing trend within many churches.

This begins by God gripping a person’s heart, giving them a passion for a particular area, which is then outworked, (and here is my reservation) in a ‘new ministry.’ Please do not misunderstand me; I fully believe that God inspires His people with dreams and visions; that through the Holy Spirit women and men of all ages are called to use their gifting and passions for His kingdom. We live as one observer put it, in a ‘start-up culture.’ We have resources at our fingertips that enable us to attempt projects that would have required hundreds of people 30-40 years ago. I do not want to kill off entrepreneurism, nor put pay to the dreams and visions of many. Where I am convinced a little more work needs to be done is in the ‘next steps’ before launching out in a new area. So here are four questions that might help you to reflect further as you consider and pray about the ‘new ministry’ you sense called to begin.

  1. What is already out there? The Lord cares more about your village than you do. He understands the real needs and hurts to a depth you and I will never fully fathom. To this end, it is entirely likely that God has called others and ignited their passion in the same way he has with yours. It is often easier to start something new than to engage in the hard work of relationships that may span theological and ecclesiological lines, however I believe we show something truly of the kingdom of God when we step outside of our particular church stream to work with others.
  2. What are our motivations? All of us have conflicting reasons that drive our actions. An important question to ask is ‘why am I starting this?’ being entirely honest with our answer. There will always be an element of ego and personal identity wrapped up in each new initiative; it is after all what makes us human, however what will the ultimate focus be? Are we prepared, in true John the baptist style, to point to one who is greater than us?
  3. Are we overconfident in our own understanding? I quite enjoy a jigsaw puzzle, however I can spend too long trying to fit my piece into the pattern of the sky, only to find I holding a piece which makes up the water, simply because I have failed to look closely at the picture on the box. Using this metaphor for a new ministry, do we truly understand the whole picture, or do we simply have a fragment of the puzzle and no clear overview?
  4. Do we have the capacity? To succeed in business means discerning the right thing to do from the many things that can be done. Similarly, we can overload our churches/organisations by simply taking on too much. Surely it is better to do one thing well, than lots of things badly. This may mean we need to have a difficult conversation about stopping something else in order to make room for the new initiative, or conclude that this opportunity is not for us but we might be able to prayerfully support others taking it on (see question 1 above). Is it possible that God gave you a vision and burden so that you could help someone else succeed?

I don't want to deter pioneers; indeed I feel a kindred spirit with them, however I have also seen too many new initiatives begin, and then fail because these questions were never fully addressed. 

Simon Mattholie