Ministry DNA – One Shot

“Whatever you hook em with, you gotta feed em.”

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

“Spiritual DNA” — the foundational building blocks of ministry — comprises the all-important first steps in launching a new ministry initiative.

Not exactly earth-shattering news, I’ll admit, nor is it rocket science, but it’s true. We get one chance — one — to set the culture, ethos, values and “vibe” for a new ministry. It’s extremely difficult to change a culture once it’s established. Hence the need to go slow in order to build well.

And by ministry “vibe”, I simply mean that leaders set the example by demonstrating ministry values and practices. “More is caught than taught,” as they say. Leaders can’t direct from behind; we have to lead the way.

Another saying I’ve used in recent years (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 another way to point out that it’s far wiser – however long it may take – to do the painstaking work of building, communicating, and demonstrating the DNA clearly and repeatedly before launching a new ministry initiative.

Georges nugget of wisdom provides a helpful grid for what kind of ministry DNA will infuse the ministry. “Whatever you hook em with, you gotta feed em.”

If we use entertainment to attract people, we’ll reap people who expect to be entertained.

If we call people to a discipling community, well reap people who are attracted to a discipling community

If we cast a shallow vision, we’ll reap shallow people. As noted above, it’s notoriously difficult — if not impossible — to attract people through entertainment and expect they’ll later morph into spiritually mature believers with servant attitudes.

If we call people back to their first love (Revelation 2:1–5), encourage them to 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’ll reap a faith community that, while not perfect, will at least be heading in the right direction.

We get one shot — one — to instill the DNA that shapes 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.

George’s proverb should give us all pause. “Whatever you hook em with, you gotta feed em."

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