The most knowledgeable minister must progress in their proficiency by obtaining spiritual competencies to nurture and sustain every aspect of his ministry. The foremost spiritual competency is appreciating the love of God. Jesus Christ explained that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest commandment is to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:37-39). The most pure motivation for ministry is love for God, and only secondarily a love for people. The first and great commandment to love God is realized as the minister engages in a personal celebration of God’s holiness in private devotional worship. The lack of worship stems from an attitude of arrival. People seek after that which they feel is necessary. Failure to seek the Lord indicates the perception that the Lord is unnecessary in the minister’s labors. While no pastor would dare to utter such things, actions speak louder than words in this instance. Only grace can produce true, spiritual, eternal results in ministry. The pride of a pastor who fails to celebrate God’s gracious goodness demonstrates self-reliance. God’s resists those proud pastors. An accurate view of God, His grace, and oneself will renew a minster’s walk with God. Ministers must gaze deeply into the Scriptures and allow them to penetrate our hearts and reveal our deepest needs. Competent ministers will crave the Lord with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength knowing that such is the demonstration of love. When ministers believe and behave correctly they will be suitable to lead others in public worship and teach others the ways of discipleship. A dangerous aspect of the ministry is a great divide that can exist between a minister’s public persona and his private life. The disparity is caused primarily from a lack of personal worship. The tendency of some ministers to be task oriented causes great distractions that appear to be reasonable justifications for abstaining from personal devotions. The dangerous nature of the false dichotomy is clear: if ministers are not faithful to the Lord in private devotion they will not be fruitful in public ministry. Competent ministers will ensure that the public and private aspects of their lives are consistent and harmonious.
The only means by which ministers can gain and maintain passionate love for God is through humble dependence upon Him. Ministers must avoid obtaining a tragically diseased heart while obtaining a big theological brain. Recognizing that knowledge alone does not shape the pattern of one’s ministry is a critical acknowledgement. Ministry is always also shaped by the condition of the minister’s heart. A relationship with God will cause one to appreciate the knowledge of a poisonous heart. The daily rescue promised and provided by God through the gospel will deliver ministers from themselves at each moment of temptation. As Tripp proclaimed, “Only the worship of Christ has the power to protect him for the ‘seductive idols of ministry.’” Honest humility, nurtured in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, develops mature love and deep gratitude passionately expressed through compassionate ministry. Oswald Chambers had ministers in mind when he wrote:
“God can achieve his purpose either through the absence of human power and resources, or the abandonment of reliance on them. All through history God has chosen and used nobodies, because their unusual dependence on him made possible the unique display of his power and grace. He chose and used somebodies only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.”
An abiding sense of humility is the only virtue that promotes unconditional love to people. On the other hand, theological self-righteousness only exacerbates sinful conditions by fueling the primary catalyst of sin: pride. For many ministers, the pride of superior theological knowledge skews the truth that his knowledge exceeds his maturity. The minister’s recognition of his own deep need for grace will convince him to become a dispensary of grace to meet the needs of others. Ministry of this manner follows the pattern of Jesus, whose patience and loving touch facilitated the opportunity to minister grace to His hearers.
The spiritual competencies of love and humility find their practical expression in the development of a humble, candid leadership perspective. Humble ministers who depend lovingly on the Lord will confess publicly to their own struggle. Many people are inspired to follow strong, mature leaders, but they also identify most easily with their struggles. Transparency fosters approachability. Approachability creates a safe environment in which neediness can be communicated with honesty, absent of the fear of rejection. Unconditional acceptance is the essence of Christ’s love, and such should be the testimony of each minister. The virtues of humility and love kiss each other at the cross of Christ, and it is with such a “kiss” that God’s people must be met by their minister.