During this Thanksgiving season, I have found myself thinking about what I am thankful for in my life. These seven points came out of my reflection upon the work of God in my life through the ministry. It is my prayer that you will be blessed and encouraged by this article and will develop a greater appreciation for the role of the ministry in your own life. Here are my seven reasons I am thankful for the ministry.
1. The ministry laid the foundation of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
As a young person, I made many memories in the halls of the United Pentecostal Church in Mankato, MN where my family lived in the parsonage. One Sunday, I was singing (quite loudly) a popular Gospel song with incorrect theology. My pastor’s wife stopped me and said, “Jacob, we don’t believe that.” In my twelve year old mind I didn’t make the connection, until ten years later when I received a personal illumination of the particular doctrine. When I was a child, my pastor’s wife would teach Sunday School and teach us right from wrong and how we should live for and love Jesus. At the ripe age of eight years old, on the last night of Minnesota Campmeeting, I repented of my sins, walked forward to a blue-carpeted altar, lifted my hands to God, and allowed his Spirit to fill me. There was a minister (Ron Thompson) kneeling in front of me encouraging me to worship the Lord with all of my heart as I began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave me the utterance. I will never forget, as just a few weeks later, I found myself sitting in the cow tank in the basement of my church. The only thing I could say as I sat there was, “This is so cool, this is so cool!” My pastor put me into the water and baptized me in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of my sins (Acts 2:38). I cannot escape the hands of the ministry in the early years of my walk with God.
2. The ministry became an example for my life.
As a teenager, I would listen to the records and tapes and read the articles of ministers within the United Pentecostal Church. Were they all perfect? No. Have some of them messed up and left the ministry? Yes. I have met some of the ones that I thought were so great and found out that they were normal human beings with problems just like me. But at the end of the day, I received from the ministry a pattern by which to live my life. The qualities I took away as a child were consistency, love for people, and a desire to lead others to Jesus. For these qualities and godly examples, I am thankful.
3. The ministry became my heroes.
As a child, I would take my pen, notepad, and Bible to camp and try to get all of the preachers from my district and visiting evangelists to sign them for me. My family knew I loved music, and they all gave me their records (LPs, yes I know, crazy!), which I listened to and began to mimic. Albums from Murrell Ewing, Bobbie Shomake, The Urshans, Vesta Mangun, Christmas for Christ, Harvestime, and many others became my music of choice. In many ways, I felt like this influence in my life kept me strong in my faith as a young person (You cannot listen to music and it not affect you). As a young person, I would read through every Pentecostal magazine I could get my hands on. I would study the pictures and memorize the names of the ministers. I would bring a camera to meetings and (sometimes to their embarrassment) try to get my picture with them. The ministry gave me heroes to try to emulate when I so desperately needed a focus point in my life.
4. The ministry facilitated my calling.
In 1995, on the Friday night of General Conference in Des Moines, IA, I felt God pull on my heart in a special way. I was sitting in the balcony with a friend and we had been goofing off the whole week checking out girls and looking at the knives from the Global Missions booth. On that night, however, I felt like God had grabbed my attention in a way that I could not ignore. I told my friend that I had to go to the front and pray. The walk seemed to take forever, but finally I made my way to the ground floor. I knelt down on the concrete floor, put my face to the ground, and let the tears flow as I surrendered my heart to God. I don’t remember the sermon, but it was the Spirit of God that worked through a man that day to bring me to a place of surrender to the call of God on my life.
5. The ministry acknowledged my calling.
I was a little nervous when my dad walked me up to my pastor and said, “Jacob feels like he has a call of God on his life.” I was about fourteen at the time and had been in the awkward phase now for about a year after my call to preach. There were no flashes from heaven, and no one was knocked to the floor having visions. But one thing that did happen on that day was my pastor recognized my calling. He recognized the hand of God upon my life and it wasn’t long until he asked me, “Jacob, why don’t you plan on preaching on a Wednesday night.” It was my time to shine, although I can assure you, I did not shine. It was far from it. It’s hard to shine when you are preaching your first message while feeling you bear the mantle of Lee Stoneking and have the preaching skill of Jeff Arnold! But the point is that someone gave me a chance, allowed me to take a step of faith and start the preaching ministry to which God had called me. Now, many years later, I am still learning and growing in my preaching. I am thankful for a minister who acknowledged my calling.
6. The ministry supported my calling.
There were several men and women in the Minnesota District that spoke into my life at critical times. They had an active role in the long-term transformation that God was working in my life. I remember, at sixteen years of age, my Pastor, Galen Thompson, coming down from the platform and putting his arms around me. I had come to the altar after I had dropped the ball and resisted God using me in the gifts (I Corinthians 12). I was broken and crying out for God’s forgiveness. He leaned down and prayed in my ear, “God, you know you wanted to use Jacob in tongues and interpretation tonight…” My heart sank. How did he know that? He continued to pray for me and I eventually left the altar that day encouraged. Only God can arrange moments like this. When a man speaks into your life a word of encouragement to not give up but keep moving forward in your ministry. During my later teen years there was a precious lady of God that God used to encourage me. Katherine Alexander was a woman who commanded authority but at the same time was sweet and smiled a lot. I remember her coming up to me during a very stressful time in my life and she said, “Jacob, I’m praying for you.” Her words remain with me to this day. It is the support of these godly men and women, and many more like them, that have helped me become the minister that I am today.
7. The ministry kept me in my right mind.
My wife and I sat on the couch and let it all come pouring out. We had just gone through a very difficult ministry transition and just needed someone to listen. The pain, the frustration, the questions, they were all there. They listened with understanding hearts. They didn’t point a finger, tell us we were hypocrites and that we should never feel angry or upset, they just listened. This sweet couple had been a part of our lives for many years. Their graying hair and many years of ministry experience gave them the understanding, wisdom, and patience required to lend open arms to a hurting young minister. Later, the older, seasoned minister, came and sat down next to me. “I love you and I’m proud of you”, he said. I fought back the tears and tried to think that maybe he was talking about someone else. How could he be proud of me? I was going through hell in my ministry. Everything had fallen apart. My motives and my calling were being brought under question. I felt rejected, abandoned, and like a complete failure. His listening ear, hand on my shoulder, and word of confidence calmed my churning spirit. This simple gesture gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe I wasn’t a failure, maybe I could keep going, maybe I was going to make it through this trial. It kept me sane. Thank God for the ministry.
What does all this mean? How do I apply this to my own life? Here are three ways to look at this article and make an application to your own life.
1. Remember that someone is looking up to you.
We never know just who is watching us. It is for this cause that a minister should give themselves to being the best Christian they can be, seeking to please God with their lifestyle. Let us lead people to Jesus, not for our own ego or for selfish gain.
2. Remind yourself that you didn’t get here by accident.
The success that any of us may achieve in ministry is partly the result of someone’s prayers, encouragement, and acknowledgement of our calling. For this cause we must remain thankful and humble before God that he would allow people to be a part of our developmental process.
3. Remain in fellowship with other ministers.
David felt the comfort of the shepherd’s staff in Psalm 23:4. Although he was talking about the Lord, we know from other Scriptures (Acts 20:28) that we are all sheep in God’s flock and require an overseer. We all need someone to pastor us, shepherd us, comfort us in the valley, calm our souls in troubling times, and give us direction to the green pastures of God’s blessing. Keep a man or woman of God in your life. They will save your mind and will often be the voice of God for your life and ministry.
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