Tag Archives: Ministry


The most important skill needed for evangelism is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for church leadership is the ability to listen. The most important skill needed for body life in the church is the ability to listen.

We focus way too much on what we’re going to say. We need to focus more on picking up on what others say.

The spate of celebrity suicides reminds us that there are hurting people that need someone to listen to them. So much violence, like the shootings at schools, could be avoided if people would listen to those who feel they have no voice. So many abuse victims could be protected if the people around them would listen.

How many problems in the church reflect a lack of listening? How many people fall through the cracks because we don’t hear what they need to say? How many young people are frustrated by their perception that the older generation doesn’t care about their situation? How many older people feel that their wisdom and experience is being cast aside in favor of the young?

People around us are dealing with much pain. They are dealing with much fear. They have guilt and regrets from the past. They have uncertainty about the future.

Listen. Truly listen to the people around you. Spend less time talking, more time listening. You may be surprised at the changes you’ll see.

Ministry for non-ministers

No tengo alma de cura.” Translation: I don’t have the soul of a priest.

That’s how one church member in Argentina explained why he wasn’t more involved at church. He wasn’t a preacher. Wasn’t a song leader. Got too nervous to lead prayers or direct singing. There was nothing for him to do.

Hopefully we can see the folly in this reasoning, but I also hope that we can see that the view isn’t uncommon. We hear it a lot in gender discussions. We should be aware of it in all of our church discussions.

Church members need to see that they can and should have a ministry outside of the Sunday assembly. Here are some suggestions on how to go about that, taken from my book Church Inside Out:

  • Leaders expect to be positive and affirming when faced with ministry proposals. The church needs to develop an atmosphere where members can try new things; that’s the best way for people to discover their gifts.
  • Priority is on “outside the walls” ministries. It’s too easy to fall back into thinking about what is done in Bible class or the worship assembly when we’re thinking about how God has gifted us. We need to see that the ability to feed the hungry and clothe the poor is a spiritual gift, and teaching young kids to read is as much a ministry as teaching Ladies Bible class.
  • When someone describes something that isn’t right, it’s taken as an offer to help. If someone wants to talk to the leaders about something that needs improvement, that person needs to know they will be actively engaged as part of the solution.
  • Members need to be aware of needs in order to meet those needs. Part of the job of being a leader is awareness of needs in the community and in the church. Leaders need a mechanism for communicating those needs to the body.
  • The church will not and can not meet every need. But we can expect God to use members to meet the needs that best fit their gifts, and we can expect him to provide gifts for the needs the church is best able to meet.
  • Ministries have to be given the freedom to die. People need to know that there is no shame in moving on from a ministry that is no longer fruitful or no longer needed. People need to have the opportunity to try something and honestly evaluate the results. If what is tried doesn’t work, the church members must have the freedom to let it go.

What suggestions would you offer? How can we help our members to identify and use community-oriented gifts?

Ministry is out there

In my last post, I talked about our need to assist Christians in discovering ministries outside of the Sunday morning worship time. Basically, we need to expand our view of what ministry is. The time we spend in corporate worship is such a small percentage of our week; if that’s the only place that ministry takes place, the church will be insignificant in its community.

We have 168 hours in a week. If we take out 8 hours a day for sleep, that still leaves 112. How much time do we spend in corporate worship? Anywhere from one to four hours. That’s a small part of 112 hours; if that’s the focus of our ministry, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our lives are largely unfruitful.

We need vision. We need imagination. We need creativity. We need to continually find ways to serve God outside of the assembly, as well as inside.

Christian leaders should be focused on equipping the saints for works of ministry, on spurring them on to love and good deeds. We need to encourage our people to explore their gifts, to explore different ways of serving and ministering to the people around them.

When all we see is the assembly, we are doomed to a lifestyle of power plays and doctrinal arguments. When we lift our vision and see what the church can do around our community and around our world, we’ll soon be too busy serving to have time to argue over minutiae.

Get up. Get out. Go serve. Come together to worship God and recharge our batteries for another week of service.

Ministry is out there, not in here. Until we learn that, I don’t see anything for us but fussing, fighting, and decline.

By the way, I noticed that the Church Inside Out books are now available on Amazon.

You can buy the main book here: https://smile.amazon.com/Church-Inside-Out-Timothy-Archer/dp/089098915X/

You can buy the workbook here: https://smile.amazon.com/Church-Inside-Workbook-Timothy-Archer/dp/0890989168/

Service and servants, ministry and ministers

I’ve been involved in church leadership to some degree for most of my adult life. So any criticisms I might have toward the church grow out of self-analysis and awareness of my own failures. This is especially true with this post.

One problem I see in the church has to do with helping our members find their place to serve within the body. I was reminded of this when reading what one sister wrote:

I used to lament over not loving to bake casseroles and decorate for baby showers. If I could do those things I would have been more useful in most church settings I have experienced.

This isn’t meant to be a post about gender roles, even though that’s what this sister was writing about. Feel free to discuss that in the comments, but it’s not what I’m getting at.

Her words made me recognize what a poor job we’ve done in helping people see that most of what the church does happens outside of our assembly time. It’s not just women who are frustrated. I think one reason that so many men drop out of church is that they think if they aren’t gifted to serve in a public way, they aren’t useful in the body. For many of them, even baking and hosting aren’t options. If they aren’t talented speakers or skilled song leaders, they feel that they have little or nothing to offer the church.

Much of this boils down to what I call our “edifice complex,” the obsession we have with our Sunday morning assembly. We miss the fact that we are defined by what we do outside of the church building, not inside it. Worshiping God together is crucial; I’m not asking us to take away the importance of our Sunday gatherings. Instead, I’m asking us to sanctify the rest of the week, to see that our acts of ministry outside of the Sunday assembly are as important as what we do when we’re together.

Men and women must learn to value their gifts as administrators. We need them to rejoice at their ability to recognize physical needs and meet them. When we limit ministry to preaching and leading worship, we exclude large percentages of the body, even if we allow women to participate more fully than in the past.

Until we achieve a healthy view of ministry which includes all Christians, we will always have large numbers of men and women who feel frustrated and disengaged. As long as we fail to value the wide variety of gifts within the body, we will struggle to connect with many church members.

Let’s equip the saints for works of service. Let’s spur one another on to love and good works. Let’s learn to serve and minister according to the multifaceted grace of God.

Weekend conference in El Paso

Me, Pete Vega, Carlos, Nathan and Isaac Gonzales

I spoke at the Eastwood Church of Christ in El Paso, Texas, this past Saturday, doing three sessions on “All Things To All Men.” It was a bilingual seminar, and the majority of those in attendance were Latinos.

The singing group Voces was there. The group was started by Carlos, Nathan and Isaac Gonzales, and their dad, Paul, is a minister at the Eastwood church. Pete Vega now sings bass with the group. Carlos has helped me a lot with music for my radio program; Voces even recorded the opening song for the program. They sang on Saturday afternoon, which was a huge attraction, especially for the younger crowd.

I also spoke to the congregation on Sunday morning. I really enjoyed my time with them.

Not all the weekend was good, though. On Thursday, I could tell that our 10-year-old Lab, Jasmine, was sick. She had been losing weight over the last few weeks; Thursday she didn’t really want to get up. Friday she seemed weaker, and she died Friday night, while I was in El Paso. I really hated that Carolina had to deal with that by herself.

Our son, Daniel, who is the true writer in the family, wrote a nice tribute over on his blog.