“Working on the Fundamentals”
Serving as a leader in any of the offices of church administration is not easy. As the pastor you serve in the role of the Bishop (1Timothy 3:1). The term “Bishop” is thoroughly Biblical, although not often used in our churches. You are charged with being the overseer of the countless details of the ministry of your local church family. What a precious privilege it is for you to be the “overseer” of the entire operation. Fortunately, you are not to do all of the work of the ministry (Ephesian 4:12). Sometimes it feels like it would just be easier for you to do it all; however, that is not the design the Lord wants for your local church.
John Wooden, a former basketball coach of UCLA, was asked the secret of his success in producing stellar teams. His answer was, “We master the basics. We drill over and over again on the fundamentals.” I thought a lot about that statement, not so much in basketball, but as it relates to ministry. As the pastor, it is essential that you keep the fundamentals ever before you in your ministry.
I have been reading through the gospel of Mark in my quiet time morning devotions. I couldn’t help but notice the fundamentals of ministry found in Mark 6:31-48. I remember using this text at a leadership retreat when I was the pastor of Central Baptist Church of Binghamton, New York. I challenged our pastoral staff as well as the deacons, trustees, school board members, and rescue mission board members that we needed to be working on and practicing the basics of ministry. They are based on Mark 6 and are as follows:
We need to be wise in scheduling (31-32). There will be times when the ministry will be so busy and demanding that we hardly take time to catch a bite to eat. We must, however, not allow this to become our typical method of operation. The Lord Jesus knew that the disciples could not keep up this schedule, and surely we cannot keep such a schedule indefinitely either.
We need to keep growing in our concern for people (33-37). Not every inquiry from people will be an emergency that demands our immediate attention, but sometimes it truly will be an emergency. Our plans at times will need to be adjusted. Some situations cannot wait till next week. We will need wisdom to know the difference between people’s procrastination and people’s genuine emergencies. Because of our growing concern for people, we must learn to be flexible in our plans and willing to rush to help when we are needed. People are not to be viewed as aggravating interruptions; rather, they are God’s opportunities that give us the opportunity to show the love of Christ.
We must always be dependent upon God for His provision (38-42). We must be honest with ourselves. We are insufficient to meet the spiritual needs of other people. The meeting of spiritual needs must always be pointed to our precious Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is totally sufficient to meet the needs of people with whom we have contact. It is such a joy to know that with the five loaves of bread and two fish He was totally capable of providing for the people and satisfying their deepest need. Before He could meet their needs, though, they needed to comply with His directives. Did you notice “He commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down” (39-40).
We must exercise care in the use of surplus when the Lord brings that situation to us (43-44). After the Lord Jesus fed the five thousand men, plus women and children, twelve baskets full of food was left over. The fragments of bread and fish that were not consumed were surplus and were collected. None of it went to waste. When the Lord so blesses a ministry that there is a surplus, wise church families are very careful in their use of funds.
We must never be content with the past. We must keep moving onward (45). A mighty miracle had just occurred. Wouldn’t it have been simply grand for the disciples and the Lord Jesus to have stayed and simply celebrated? There would be so much they could talk about. They had met so many interesting people. The bread and the fish had been wonderful. The work of the Savior was absolutely miraculously incredible. There was much that they could have celebrated. That’s not how ministry works, however. It was time to move onward. New ministry awaited them. New opportunities to trust the Lord were yet ahead. New lessons were to be learned. New steps of obedience were to be taken. The disciples could not stay long to celebrate. We can’t, either.
We must enter into a deeper commitment to pray (46). What a blessed sight is before us. The disciples had been sent away, and the Lord Jesus now departed to go into a mountain to pray. We can never overstate the importance the Lord assigned to prayer. I encouraged our staff that we could do a lot of things without prayer. Not much would last or count for eternity, but we surely could do a lot without prayer. On the other hand, for us to be doing the “gold, silver and precious stone” of ministry (1 Corinthians 3: 12), we needed much more commitment to prayer. Whether you are serving as the sole pastor or in a ministry with multiple pastors, nothing of eternal value takes place without first the investment of prayer.
We need to keep one eye open to developing needs (47-48). As the Lord Jesus was on the mountain praying, the disciples were toiling in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night, and in the middle of a storm. “He saw them” is a wonderful reminder to the servant of the Lord that as you are praying, don’t be surprised if someone with great needs suddenly appears on your horizon. As we are on our knees directing our thoughts toward Heaven, the Lord often sends people to us who need His ministry.
I never read the account of Mark 6:31-48 without thinking of the fundamentals that I have worked on over my lifetime as a pastor and that I am still working on as the author and family counselor of Baptist Church Planters. There are many other principles that could be set forth for successful church leadership and administration. These, however, are some of the fundamentals that every pastor needs to review and implement. They are the fundamentals on which you and I need to be working to be successful in the important role of church administration.