Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ministry DNA -- One Shot Only


photo source: Wikicommons
“Whatever you hook ‘em with,
“Ya gotta feed ‘em.”

George Mercado taught me many crucial lessons in ministry during our six years together. One of the many pithy proverbs that summed up important values was the saying above.

The “spiritual DNA” — or the foundational building blocks of ministry — are the most important first steps in launching a new ministry of any kind.

That’s not exactly news, I’ll admit, nor is it rocket science, but it’s true. You get one chance — just one — to set the culture, ethos, values and “vibe” for a new ministry initiative. It’s really, really difficult to change a culture once it’s established. Hence the need to go slow in order to start well.
(And by ministry “vibe”, I simply mean that as a leader, you set the example by demonstrating the ministry values and practices — “more is caught than taught”, as they say. You can’t direct from behind; you have to lead the way.)
Another saying that I have begun using in recent years (perhaps not as pithy as George’s, but I’m working on it): “It’s too late to build the foundation if you’re already living on the first floor.” It’s just another way of pointing out that it’s far wiser to put in the (however long it takes) patient work of building and communicating and demonstrating the DNA clearly and repeatedly before launching a new ministry initiative (or church plant, or whatever).

That’s where the nugget of wisdom that George shared with me provides a helpful grid for what kind of “ministry DNA” will get infused into the ministry.
“Whatever you hook ‘em with, you gotta feed ‘em.”
  • If we seek to attract people through entertainment, we will reap people who expect to be entertained.
  • If we call people to a discipling community, we will attract people who want to be part of a discipling community. (And discipled people understand that the Great Commission is part of being a disciple.)
  • If we cast a shallow vision, we will reap shallow people. (As noted above, it’s notoriously difficult — if not impossible — to attract people through entertainment and expect they will later morph into spiritually mature people with a heart to serve others.)
  • If we call people back to their first love (Rev. 2:1-5), encourage them to rekindle the use of their spiritual gifts for the good of others (2 Tim. 1:6-7), and call them to Jesus-style serving (John 13:12-17), we will reap a community of believers that, while not perfect, will at least be heading in the right direction.
You get one shot — just one — to install the DNA that will shape a new ministry for years to come. Once it’s embedded, it’s bedrock — which can either be an encouraging word or a sobering warning. That’s why George’s proverb should give us all pause.
“Whatever you hook ‘em with, you gotta feed ‘em.”

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