An easy way to ruin your ministry

This blog is inspired by the most recent episode of What’s God Doing!

If you want to ruin your ministry, just don’t worry about systems and policies.

For many, those words may evoke boredom, frustration, and stress.  In fact, they tend to be the types of things people think about only if they have to, such as when pressured by leadership, or if you are the leader.  We want to believe we, and those alongside us, are generally responsible and competent, and will organically navigate ministry well; yet we’ve all heard stories of spaces getting disorganized or worse, unsafe.

So yes, being aware of systems and policies is a “best practice”; it’s also Biblical.

Take Proverbs 29:18:

New International Version
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

New Living Translation
When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.

English Standard Version
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.

King James Bible
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

On the surface this can appear to simply say “the directionless go wild, but following the rules will make you happy.”  However, there is a deeper message here that’s vital for ministries (and any situation): it’s not about systems and policies, but Spirit-led systems and policies.

Let’s break down those scripture versions.  Here is what the people are lacking in the first part:

  • Revelation
  • Divine Guidance
  • Prophetic Vision
  • Vision

The word there — חָ֭זוֹן (ḥā-zō-wn) — is translated as “revelation” and “vision”, but the implication is that it is Spirit-given, not simply human insight.  It’s not that these people didn’t have direction: it’s that they were chasing their direction.  What was the result?

  • Casting off restraint
  • Running wild
  • Perishing

This word –יִפָּ֣רַֽע (yip-pā-ra‘) — is translated as “let go”, but the implication is much broader, including to be uncovered, undone, naked, unrestrained, out of control, and wild.  Here there is not freedom, but recklessness that leads to destruction.  It is not a place anyone would want to land; as the KJV notes, it is the path to death.

So what’s the solution?  A quick read of this verse would give you the impression that you merely need to “keep/obey the law” and you’ll be fine; we can look at the New Testament Pharisees to see that something is missing from this understanding.  They knew the law better than most, and killed the son of God.

Here is the key: Proverbs 29:18b was not meant to be a standalone verse.  It is a part of a book the goes deeper into what the Law truly is, and what it looks like to “keep/obey” it; even more, it’s within a collection of books that makes it clear that the Law and obedience to it are deeper topics than we realize! (Want to go deeper?  Check out this course!)  These are not just mere words in a religious text; as the next verse puts it, “Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond.

We may think we understand God’s law — we may even actually understand the words in Scripture — but we are capable of stumbling into disaster if we lack Spirit-given vision for why that law exists and why we should submit to it.  Jesus encountered people who were so confident they understood God’s law that they rebuked him, to which he responded, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)  He knew they latched onto words but missed the heart, because “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

So what are we saying here?  That to be successful in ministry you need systems and policies?  Sure, you need those, but before that, you need the Spirit.  If you do not want to be left cast off, naked, and perishing, it is not enough to simply follow a set of rules; we must invite the Spirit to help us see what we otherwise couldn’t, and do what is beyond our capacity.  This isn’t just for individuals, but bodies of people; has your team sought the Spirit when creating systems and processes?  You may have good ideas, but I can guarantee the God who created the systems and processes of the universe has something to contribute to yours!

If you and your ministry want to thrive, seek the Spirit, shape your guidelines and direction from that ongoing relationship, and invite the Spirit to equip you, because “blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.

 

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