Success in ministry

God is responsible for the success
We are responsible for our effort. Leave the results to God

(1 Cor 3:5-6 NIV)  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. {6} I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.

We may feel disappointed in our ministry because we do not see results. However, we are not responsible for the results. God is.

Paul says he planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God alone is the one responsible for making it grow. If you have tried your best to grow your church and the results are slow to come, do not be discouraged. God will not hold you accountable for the results. He holds you accountable to the effort that you put in His ministry.

(Mat 10:5-14 NIV)  These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "… As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' {8} Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons… {11} "Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave…{14} If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.

Jesus knew that no matter how hard we try there would be people who will not respond to our ministry. Don’t let yourself be disappointed by them. Like us, Jesus’ disciples encountered people who chose not to respond to their ministry. Even Jesus met people who would not respond to Him. Remember many people were out shouting “Crucify him!”

We are not accountable to God for how others respond. We are accountable to God for how much effort we put into our ministry.

Maybe you have worked hard in cell ministry but don’t see the cell growing. Maybe you tried hard in winning souls but see very little results. Do not be discouraged.

God promises to empower our ministry

God is not only responsible for the results of our ministry; He is responsible for empowering it.

(Phil 4:19-20 NIV)  And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. {20} To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(James 1:5 NIV)  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

We don’t rely on our own abilities to do the ministry

If God is responsible for empowering it, the smart thing to do is to be connected to the power source. That was exactly what Jesus told His disciples to do. When Jesus was with them on earth, their ministry is filled with power. Jesus was afraid that after he had left the earth, the disciples’ ministry would not be able to continue with power. Therefore, in one of His last teaching sessions before He died, He told them that they have to remain connected to the power source.

(John 15:5 NIV)  "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

We cannot hope to accomplish anything in our ministry if we do not draw from God. Even Jesus began His ministry with the acknowledgement that His source of power and anointing is God.

(Luke 4:18-19 NIV)  "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, {19} to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

And Jesus showed us an example through His life how he connected to the power source. No matter how busy Jesus was, He would get up early to pray to the Father. If the Son of God needed to do that, so much more you and I.

If we attempt to do a ministry by our own strength, we are destined to failure. We can only succeed in a ministry if we are empowered by God.

We rely on God’s power to do our ministry if we spend time praying and asking Him to empower us. If we find it too busy to pray, we are merely relying on our own strength.

Application: How connected are you to the power source? How often do you spend time prayer and seeking His direction and anointing in your ministry? How do you plan to do things differently from now onwards?

Don’t be discouraged by lack of immediate success. Continue to persevere.

(Gal 6:9 NIV)  Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Application: Name one area of ministry that you are disappointed in. Tell God that you will not be disappointed and that you will do your best and leave the results to Him.

We need not feel inadequate

(Phil 4:13 NIV)  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Did this verse say Christ can do all things? No, it says I can do all things.

Did this verse say I can all things by my own abilities? No, it says I can do all things through Christ.

(2 Cor 4:7 NIV)  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

(Zec 4:6 NIV)  So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.

If we know that God is the One responsible for empowering our ministry, we should not feel inadequate. No matter how little we have if we give them to God, He will multiply them and do great things with them.

Remember the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes. Jesus asked His disciples to feed five thousand men, not including women and children. They said, No Way! We only have five loaves and two fishes.

Maybe we think we can never be good enough to contribute to the ministry. Maybe some of you think, I am not trained in Bible school, how can I impact Bible truths to others? I don’t even know how to read the Bible. I have a full time job, how can I be an effective ministry worker? A church leader may think, I have so many people I want to reach but I have so little resources. How can I make and impact?

Jesus would say to you today what He said to His disciples 2000 years ago. Bring them to me. Whatever you give to Jesus, He will not despise. He will not think they are two small. He took that little amount of food that is only sufficient for one boy and He gave thanks. If you give to Jesus what you have today, He is not going to despise them. He is going to thank His Father for them.

Note that Jesus cannot do anything unless you give them to Him. If the boy thinks his lunch will not make any difference and keeps it to himself, Jesus would not have the opportunity to work with it.

He will do one more thing. He will multiply them. The Bible says a boy’s lunch became food to feed five thousand men, plus women and children. And after eating they collected twelve basket full of leftovers.

(Mat 14:15-21 NIV)  As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food." {16} Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." {17} "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered. {18} "Bring them here to me," he said. {19} And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. {20} They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. {21} The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Watch against pride when your ministry is successful

(Prov 16:18 NIV)  Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

(Luke 10:17-20 NIV)  The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." {18} He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. {19} I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. {20} However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

Even as it is important to watch against disappointment when our ministry is not successful, we should also watch against pride if it is. I don’t know how many of the seventy-two were proud. But it is tempting when we do so well in ministry.

Pride in ministry can easily lead to jealousy and strife. If we think highly of ourselves, we will not be pleased when someone else does better than us in ministry. We will also not be happy if we are given a lesser task than someone else to do. Or we may be unhappy if a person tries to “criticize” our ministry.

We should not be proud because it is the Holy Spirit who gave us gifts so that we can be successful in our ministry. It is not because we are great in ourselves.

(Eph 4:11-12 NIV)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Application: Are you guilty of pride in your ministry? How has this pride been manifested – jealousy, strive, resistance to correction? Confess before God your pride.

What is our role in ministry
Count the cost before starting a ministry to prevent failure halfway

(Luke 14:28-29 NIV)  "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? {29} For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him,

Different ministries have different requirements. Some require a lot of time commitment; others require money commitment. We need to consider whether we have all these resources before starting a ministry.

Give to God what we have

We may wonder how we can be successful in our ministry with so little resources. The disciples thought the same thing. How could they be successful in feeding the crowd with so little food? The secret lies in giving to God what we have, no matter how little. God is able to multiply what we have to make it enough for the ministry.

(Mark 6:36-44 NIV)  Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat." {37} But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages ! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" {38} "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five--and two fish." {39} Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. {40} So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. {41} Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. {42} They all ate and were satisfied, {43} and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. {44} The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.


Ministry success comes with teamwork
Why the church is compared to a human body

(1 Cor 12:27-28 NIV)  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. {28} And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

(1 Cor 12:14-18 NIV)  Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. {15} If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. {16} And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. {17} If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? {18} But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

The engine of God’s ministry on earth is the church. And the church is often described as a human body because it illustrates so well the idea of teamwork. Each part of the body is essential for its proper functioning. Ministry functions best when it is a team.

Talk about even a simple task of eating. You need your eyes to see the food. You need your nose to smell the fragrance of the food. You need your mouth to chew the food. You need the stomach to digest the food. Can you think of a task that only require ONE part of the body? I don’t think so.

Even if you say thinking only requires one part of the body – the brain. I tell you your brain would not be thinking for very long if your heart wasn’t beating.

Importance of teamwork and delegation

If even a simple task requires so many parts of our body, why do we carry out ministry as if one person is sufficient? It is true there are gifted people around. In a cell ministry, for example, sometimes one person is so gifted by God that he can be the worship leader, teacher, and counsellor all at once. But this is not how a ministry should function. It functions best when there is teamwork. Every person feels he has an important part to play. He does not become a spectator.

If you are a leader of a cell group, are you training up somebody so that even if you are not there, that person can lead the group effectively? Are you dividing up the task so that everyone feels involved?

The concept of delegation is so important. Moses was a great leader who led millions of Jews out of Egypt and slavery. But even he found out that he couldn’t handle his work without delegation.

Exod 18: 13  The next day, Moses sat as usual to hear the people’s complaints against each other. They were lined up in front of him from morning till evening. 14When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "Why are you trying to do all this alone? The people have been standing here all day to get your help." 15Moses replied, "Well, the people come to me to seek God’s guidance. 16  When an argument arises, I am the one who settles the case. I inform the people of God’s decisions and teach them his laws and instructions." 17"This is not good!" his father-in-law exclaimed. 18"You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. 19Now let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing him their questions to be decided. 20You should tell them God’s decisions, teach them God’s laws and instructions, and show them how to conduct their lives. 21But find some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as judges over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22These men can serve the people, resolving all the ordinary cases. Anything that is too important or too complicated can be brought to you. But they can take care of the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23If you follow this advice, and if God directs you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace."

Even Jesus, the greatest leader of all, did not do everything by Himself. He raised up a core team of 12 leaders. When He died, His disciples raised a second line of leaders. This way the church could grow.

Delegation was also practiced in the early church.

Tit 1:5 The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

Importance of teamwork between men and women

To exploit the full potential of the body of Christ, we must not neglect the contribution of women. Jesus involved them in His earthly ministry. Luke mentioned a group of women who traveled with Jesus as He journeyed from town to town (Luke 8:1-3). Among them were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Susanna. These women provided financial support for Jesus and the twelve apostles.

Women also proclaimed the gospel. In His encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah. She immediately left and began telling people, "He told me everything I have ever done" (John 4:39 NRSV). Many Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman's testimony.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all called attention to the loyal women who participated in Jesus' Galilean ministry and followed Him all the way to the cross and the grave.

Women were the first at the tomb after the resurrection; and, as such, they were the first to broadcast His victory over death (Luke 23:55-24:11). They shared the greatest news: "He is not here, but has risen" (Luke 24:5 NRSV).

The Bible also mentions couples who are instrumental in ministry. One such couple was Aquilla and Priscilla.

In the letter to the Corinthian church, Paul makes special mention of a couple Aquilla and Priscilla. They are cell hosts and leaders.

(1 Cor 16:19-20 NIV)  The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. {20} All the brothers here send you greetings.

(Rom 16:3-5 NIV)  Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. {4} They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. {5} Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia.

In the Jewish culture, which is male dominated, you always greet the man first, then the woman. But here Paul reversed the order and greeted the woman first. I don’t think it was a slip of tongue because on his letter to Timothy he did it again.

(2 Tim 4:19 NIV)  Greet Priscilla and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus.

I believe Paul wanted to pay special honor to Priscilla who had been so instrumental in his ministry, perhaps even more instrumental than her husband.

It is not true that woman cannot play a significant role in ministry. There were many women recorded in the Bible who had been significant contributors to the ministry of the gospel.

Husbands should release their wives into the ministry. Better yet, if husbands and wives cooperate in the ministry, they can do great things for the Lord.

I have a wife who is active in the ministry. It is natural to sometimes feel that perhaps she should spend more time with me and less time with the ministry. But I have to remind myself: Who am I to compete with Jesus?

Importance of unity

(Psa 133 NIV)  A song of ascents. Of David. How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! {2} It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes. {3} It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

Unity is so important because the church or team cannot get anything done if there is in-fighting. There is also no strength and complementing of skills without unity.

If the left leg wants to go to the left and the right leg wants to go to the right, where do you think the body will end up? It will probably fall flat on the face right here?

If the people in the church cannot be united and move in one direction, the whole body will get nowhere.

Watch against disunity and unhealthy leader affiliation.

(1 Cor 3:4-7 NIV)  For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men? {5} What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task. {6} I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. {7} So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

Application: Is your ministry functioning as a team or is it a one-man show? As a leader, are you willing to delegate tasks to your members?

Ministry success comes when each person does what he is called to do

Each person needs to use his spiritual gifts to minister.

(1 Cor 12:7 NIV)  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

The gifts of the Spirit are given to each person so that the group can benefit.

Do you know your spiritual gifts?

Romans 12:6­8 (NIV) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

1 Corinthians 12:7­10 (NIV) Now to each one the manifestation (ie gift) of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:28 (NIV) And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

Ephesians 4:11­12 (NIV) It was he (ie the Holy Spirit) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Write down up to three spiritual gifts that you think you have. (If you are not sure, discuss with your leader or pastor at another time.) Are you using the spiritual gifts that God has given you?

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What is a successful ministry
Success in ministry is not dependent on whether man takes notice because God always takes notice

Ezra leads the Jews back to Israel to rebuild the house of the Lord.

(Ezra 1:1-5 NIV)  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: {2} "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. {3} Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. {4} And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'" {5} Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.

The Bible tells us who were in the group that agreed to leave Babylon to go back to Jerusalem.

(Ezra 2:1-35 NIV)  Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, {2} in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah): The list of the men of the people of Israel: {3} the descendants of Parosh 2,172 {4} of Shephatiah 372 {5} of Arah 775 {6} of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,812 {7} of Elam 1,254 {8} of Zattu 945 {9} of Zaccai 760 {10} of Bani 642 {11} of Bebai 623 {12} of Azgad 1,222 {13} of Adonikam 666 {14} of Bigvai 2,056 {15} of Adin 454 {16} of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98 {17} of Bezai 323 {18} of Jorah 112 {19} of Hashum 223 {20} of Gibbar 95 {21} the men of Bethlehem 123 {22} of Netophah 56 {23} of Anathoth 128 {24} of Azmaveth 42 {25} of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743 {26} of Ramah and Geba 621 {27} of Micmash 122 {28} of Bethel and Ai 223 {29} of Nebo 52 {30} of Magbish 156 {31} of the other Elam 1,254 {32} of Harim 320 {33} of Lod, Hadid and Ono 725 {34} of Jericho 345 {35} of Senaah 3,630

Later when the wall was completed, Nehemiah assembled the people and found a list of those who returned to rebuild the Lord’s house.

(Neh 7:6-38 NIV)  These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, {7} in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah): The list of the men of Israel: {8} the descendants of Parosh 2,172 {9} of Shephatiah 372 {10} of Arah 652 {11} of Pahath-Moab (through the line of Jeshua and Joab) 2,818 {12} of Elam 1,254 {13} of Zattu 845 {14} of Zaccai 760 {15} of Binnui 648 {16} of Bebai 628 {17} of Azgad 2,322 {18} of Adonikam 667 {19} of Bigvai 2,067 {20} of Adin 655 {21} of Ater (through Hezekiah) 98 {22} of Hashum 328 {23} of Bezai 324 {24} of Hariph 112 {25} of Gibeon 95 {26} the men of Bethlehem and Netophah 188 {27} of Anathoth 128 {28} of Beth Azmaveth 42 {29} of Kiriath Jearim, Kephirah and Beeroth 743 {30} of Ramah and Geba 621 {31} of Micmash 122 {32} of Bethel and Ai 123 {33} of the other Nebo 52 {34} of the other Elam 1,254 {35} of Harim 320 {36} of Jericho 345 {37} of Lod, Hadid and Ono 721 {38} of Senaah 3,930

Why would God repeat two completely boring passages in His precious word just chapters apart?

It is as if God is telling the writer of these passages: “I know these lists are very boring. I know they have been repeated once. But let’s put them down again. These people mean so much to me. These people who volunteered to do my work.”

Maybe we have served God wholehearted but no one seems to be taking notice. No one seems to be appreciating. Let’s remember that God never forgets your acts of service.

Whatever we do, we should do it wholeheartedly as unto God even though man may not be watching.

Colossians 3:23-­24 (NIV) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Application: Have you been feeling down because no one seems to be noticing your work? Why is it that you feel this way? Thank God that He is appreciating your ministry and commit to work hard whether people notice it or not.

Don’t consider your ministry a failure if God wants to end it and start a new one.

(Isa 43:18-19 NIV)  "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. {19} See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

We who start a ministry must be prepared when God tells us to move on. God does not work the same way all the time. There may be times when one ministry may not be appropriate and needs to be replaced by another.

It is easy for a ministry we have started to leave some sentimental value. We should learn to let go and let God do a new thing.

Success of ministry not related to size of task

(John 13:12-17 NIV)  When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. {13} "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. {14} Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. {15} I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. {16} I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. {17} Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Colossians 3:23-­24 (NIV) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.