Each year, I write a report for our church’s annual report. Some years, it reads like a “here’s what I did” and other years it previews coming attractions. This year, I tried to communicate philosophy of ministry as a context for some of our ministries and plans. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and read on.
“Nothing without meaning” was the oft-repeated phrase uttered by Dr. Dorothy Braun in one of my earliest Christian Education classes at Biola University. “Until you answer the why question, the price is always too high,” was repeatedly stated by Dr. Charlie Bradshaw during my doctoral program at Biola. My colleague at Crossroads Bible Church, Tim Jack, used the word, “Intentionality.” These three people and their sayings impressed upon me the importance of living with a sense of purpose.
I took their encouragement to heart and developed my purpose, core values, and philosophy of ministry. Let me share why I do what I do.
There are three passages of Scripture that shape my philosophy of ministry—Acts 2:42-47, Ephesians 4:11-16, and Acts 13-14. Weaving these together, I want First Central Bible Church to become:
An Acts 2:42-47 community of faith with ongoing ministry to itself and powerful outreach to the local geographic community; A family of families who are passionate about God’s Word, Fellowship, Worship, and Prayer; where Outreach is a natural byproduct.
An Ephesians 4:11-16 equipping center where gifted leaders focus on equipping believers to carry out the ministry of God through the church; A place where the people are the ministers and the Pastors & Elders are the equippers.
An Acts 13 sending church in that we will send trained and equipped men and women into service as God provides specific ministry opportunity; An established church helping to establish other churches; Willing to send our best.
These three passages also shape my core values of ministry.
Teach the whole counsel of God and Teach for Lifechange. 2 Timothy 4:2 spells out part of my job description with the instruction, “Preach the word.” Scripture, rather than culture and good ideas, is the basis for everything we do here at FCBC. Over the course of time, I try to find a balance between Old Testament book studies, New Testament book studies, and topical series. Rather than merely inform people, I want to see people transformed. I try to find a balance between explanation and application, helping people understand what the text means and what it looks like in daily life.
Bring all to maturity & many into leadership and Depth vs. Breadth. Since the goal of preaching and teaching is nothing less than transformation, I want to take people from where they are to greater maturity in Christ. I don’t want to be content with marking time waiting for Christ to return. I want to grow and help others to learn and grow until they step into eternity. I want to build deeply into the lives of people and let God determine the breadth of my ministry.
Train & equip and Leadership development. Another part of my job description comes from Ephesians 4:11-16. Rather than do all the work and ministry myself, I want to train and equip others for service. Our elders & wives meet monthly for Bible study to further sharpen each other. We have the pleasure of investing in Jack Gilbert and Dave Krok as they prepare for a future in ministry. Robin Dolbow is taking classes to become even more effective in children’s ministry. I go to Russia once a year to help further train pastors and emerging leaders in that country. Carol and I started the Sojourners Sunday School class to invest in the next generation.
Leaders must lead. A third part of my job description comes from the model of a shepherd. Leaders must be out in front, casting vision, planning and directing, leading people forward. Rather than being authoritarian, however, they are to lead in a caring manner, as a shepherd caring for the flock.
When the elders meet each month, I include the following bullet points on our meeting agenda. They remind us of the task of an elder, what God has called us to be and to do. The task of the elder includes:
- Feeding the Flock—Teach biblical truth (Acts 6:1-7); Equip people for service (Ephesians 4:11-16)
- Leading the Flock—Overseers supervise and manage the church (1 Peter 5:1-2); Manage the finances of the church (Acts 11:29-30; 1 Timothy 5:17-18)
- Protecting the Flock—Guard against false teachers (Acts 20:28-31)
- Caring for the Flock—Practical care of the flock’s many diverse needs (Acts 6:1-7); Prayer for the ill (James 5:14)
- Example for the Flock—Model Christlikeness (1 Timothy 4:12-13; 1 Peter 5:3)
- Shared leadership—Plurality of elders—collective, shared, or team leadership
Upward, Inward, Outward. There are three dimensions to ministry—Upward to Exalt the King; Inward to Equip his servants; and Outward to Expand his kingdom. Worship is the first among equals as it drives and fuels the other two. Our Building Renovation Committee is working on a proposal to help remodel our sanctuary so as to enhance our worship experience. If we’re not careful and intentional, however, we can become inwardly focused. We have to push ourselves to reach out and share our faith. We must be intentional about maintaining a sense of balance.
Building a Community to Change the World is the purpose statement of First Central. It helps us know what to say “Yes” to and what to say “No” to. Unfortunately, it is easy to overemphasize fellowship and community and become inwardly focused. We need to make local outreach through service projects and evangelism as well as global outreach through missions a high priority. We’ve sent work teams to Pine Brook Camp, Echoing Hills, and the Chicopee Senior Center to bless and serve others. We’ve sent evangelism teams to Ghana. We host What in the World lunches to get to know our missionaries better. We are proposing increased responsibilities for Jack Gilbert so that he can help strengthen us in the area of outreach.
I want to use all of my gifts for God’s glory so that one day when I step into his presence, I might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” I count it a privilege to serve Christ here at First Central. Thanks for being part of the team.
Pastor Mark Wheeler