If you like college basketball, then the month of March feels like heaven on earth. I grew up in Southern California during the heyday of UCLA basketball. Coach John Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. The story is told in They Call Me “Coach” of a writer who attended one of the Bruins’ practices during the Final Four. He expected to see the team working on strategy. Instead, Coach Wooden had the team running layup drills. Coach Wooden knew that the best teams focus on the fundamentals.
The apostle Paul believed the same principle was true of ministry. The secret of effective ministry is found in balanced growth in all areas of life. If we want to impact the lives of people, we need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word, deepen and mature in our character, sharpen and hone our skills for ministry, and use our spiritual gifts to impact others. Effective ministry requires balanced growth in our content, character, competence, and call. That’s the message of 1 Timothy 4:6-16.
Effective ministry requires growth in our …
Content (6-10). We need to grow in our knowledge of God and his word. Each one of us should have a plan to deepen our knowledge of the Bible and theology. We might consider reading books on church history and Christian classics.
Character (12). Though in his 30’s, Timothy felt intimidated by the task of leadership. Rather than focus on his age, Paul encouraged him to be an example of godly character. We are to model Christlikeness to all those around us. We should demonstrate measurable growth in obedience, honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and the fruit of the Spirit. We should grow in our ability to withstand temptation.
Competence (13). Paul encouraged Timothy to become proficient in reading and teaching the Scriptures. As Christ followers, we should develop a plan to sharpen our skills in Bible study and prayer. We should hone our ability to share our faith and disciple others. We should seek to grow in our ability to lead and manage our time. We should become more proficient in teaching and evangelism so that we can share what we believe with others.
Call (14). In our day, we have placed an emphasis on discovering our spiritual gifts. In contrast, Paul instructed Timothy not to neglect using his spiritual gift. Each of us should seek to use our spiritual gifts for maximum impact. We should have a better understanding of who God designed us to be, including identifying lifelong goals, core values, and a sense of purpose.
Effective servants are lifelong learners (15-16). They practice, focus, immerse, and persist in pursuing growth. They keep in mind that the goal is progress, not perfection. People should be able to see growth and change in all areas of our lives.
This passage places the responsibility for personal growth squarely on our individual shoulders. We are to become lifelong learners and grow in our content, character, competence, and call. Other passages of Scripture reveal that the Holy Spirit assists us in this process. He illumines the truth and guides us as we study. He deepens our character and helps us mature. He equips us and anoints us so we can become more effective in using our skills. He gives us spiritual gifts and confirms our sense of call. Growth is a partnership where we work together with God to become more effective.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on March 23, 2014. It is part of a series on 1 Timothy. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.