I’ve only been in full-time ministry for a couple of years now. I know that I’m not an expert in ministry. But I’m sure that I – like everyone else who looks to serve Jesus Christ with – wants to be known for finishing ministry strong. I want to finish what I start and end my time serving the Lord knowing that I’ve given everything I can.

 

In lots of ways I want to be faithful in ministry and leave a legacy of longevity in ministry like Paul explains in 2 Timothy -

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

- 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NLT)

 

But I know that how we finish the race is often very different to the way that we start. When we start something new it is often exciting and fresh – and it creates great momentum in our life. But can the excitement of starting out in ministry possibly overshadow the potential gaps in our ministry ability that won’t make it through to the end like Paul?

 

A little while ago I was reading through the book of Leviticus. I was shocked when I hit chapter 8 and saw a pattern for ministry that God had given to Aaron and his sons for ministering as priests to His people. This is the chapter where they are ordained in starting their ministry. And in this chapter I believe they are the specific principles that they needed to work hard at in order to finish strong in their ministry. In the same way, I think as ministers of Christ we can identify with these principles if we want to finish strong  serving Christ in the Church. Just because we start strong in ministry doesn't mean we'll end up finishing the race strong too.

 

Just because you start strong in ministry doesn't mean you'll finish strong.

 

In this passage I believe the Holy Spirit teaches us 12 principles (or expectations) that we often start out when we begin ministry … and it is these principles that we need to work hard at during our time in ministry if we want to finish well. Over the next next three blog posts we'll investigate these 12 principles in more detail. Today we'll look at the first four principles God speaks to the priests in Leviticus 8 and be challenged by four questions that we need to keep in mind if we are to survive in ministry today.

 

1. As ministers, we are chosen by God to be His representatives before the people

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Bring Aaron and his sons …

- Lev 8:1-2a (NLT)

 

It was God who chose Moses to be the leader of God's people (Exodus 3:10). Yet Moses refused the role of the public-spokesperson (Exodus 4:13), and thus the role of ministering to God's people deferred to his brother Aaron and sons (Exodus 4:14). Yet in all of this, God chose Aaron to be the High Priest over God's people as the one who would enter into God's presence and mediate between man and God. It is God who appoints those who He wants to minister, mediate and lead His people. And just as Aaron and his sons were chosen by God to minister to His people, so too must we realize that we are chosen by God.

 

God chooses who He wants to be His ministers, mediators, and leaders for His people. 

 

As ministers of God to His people, we must accept and understand that we have been positioned in our roles by God. We have not been put there by accident or default - it is something God has specifically ordained. And if it is something that God has purposely arranged then we need to live into this role fearlessly. We can't live out this divinely-appointed role full of self-consciousness or fearfully worrying about what people think. If it is God who opened the door for us, who can shut it on us? God doesn't make mistakes. He knows what we can and can't handle, and He never gives us more than we can bear.

 

God knows what you can handle in your ministry.

 

We must work and minister in the confidence that God has positioned you in a role that He has deliberately chosen for us just like Aaron and his sons did. He will equip us with all the tools that will help us to succeed in our role. He will never leave us or give us more than we can manage.

 

Do you serve the Lord with confidence knowing that He has specifically chosen you to be in this ministry position to lead His people during this season? 

 

 

2. As ministers, we are to stand in God's presence and stand before the people

“… call the entire community of Israel together at the entrance of the Tabernacle.”

- Lev 8:3 (NLT)

 

The place where God did the ordination ceremony for the priests was at the entrance of the Tabernacle. As priests, Aaron and his sons were to stand in God's presence (the Tabernacle) and also stand before the people. This shows us that the role of a minister is to sometimes be a mediator who stands between God and people. They were to represent God to people, and to represent the people before God in all that they did.

 

A role of a minister is stand before God and the His people. 

 

In the same way as the priests were to minister before God and before people, so too are we as followers of Jesus Christ. As ministers we are "bridge builders" – creating pathways and opportunities to connect God with His people.  Jesus does this for us before the Lord, and we can only do this when we are in Him.

 

It is important to remember that we must connect with God first, and then connect with people. It can be easy for us to stand before people and forget about God. And it can be just as easy for us to spend time with God and forget that we are in a community of people.  Be deliberate as a minister to put yourself out there in positions where you need to connect to God and to people.

 

A minister is a bridge builder - connecting God with His people. 

 

How much time are you spending praying for people in your personal time with God? How much time are you spending speaking about God before people? 

 

 

3. As ministers, we are to wash in water of baptism to be cleansed

“Then he presented Aaron and his sons and washed them with water.” 

- Lev 8:6 (NLT)

 

The priests were to be cleansed and purified as the first step towards beginning their ministry. They were washed with water on their physical self to symbolize the purification of their spiritual self. The Bronze Laver was a wash-basin that stood between the Brazen Altar and the Holy Place. It stood as a place where the priests could wash themselves after the sacrifices before they entered into God’s dwelling.

 

Today, our symbolic cleansing is through baptism. We "wash" ourselves by being immersed in water to symbolize the dying of self, and then are lifted out of the water to symbolize being raised to life in Christ. Baptism is an event that occurs at the beginning of following Jesus Christ, yet as ministers we are called to continue to be cleansed and "washed" through the purification that comes from being immersed in God's Word. Before we do anything else in ministry we first must ensure that we are cleansed and purified. This is the foundation of all that needs to happen in ministry.

 

Before we do anything in ministry, we must first ensure that we are washed clean before God. 

 

How often do you remember the cleansing of your baptism? When was the last time you confessed and repented of your sins to purify your heart? How often do you remind yourself that "it is no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me?"

 

 

4. As ministers, we are to be dressed with royal attire to be set apart for service

 “He put the official tunic on Aaron and tied the sash around his waist. He dressed him in the robe, placed the ephod on him, and attached the ephod securely with its decorative sash. Then Moses placed the chestpiece on Aaron and put the Urim and the Thummim inside it. He placed the turban on Aaron’s head and attached the gold medallion—the badge of holiness—to the front of the turban, just as the Lord had commanded him.”

- Lev 8:7-9 (NLT)

 

A quick scan of the above passage in Leviticus 8:7-9 shows us the clothing for the priests contained the following items:

  1.  The tunic
  2.  The robe
  3.  The ephod
  4.  The chest piece
  5.  The turban
  6.  The medallion

 

We read more about these special priestly garments in a passage in Exodus 28:

"Make sacred garments for Aaron that are glorious and beautiful. Instruct all the skilled craftsmen whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom. Have them make garments for Aaron that will distinguish him as a priest set apart for my service." 

- Exodus 28:2-3 (NLT)

 

These sacred garments were to distinguish the priests from the people and consecrate them to minister before the Lord. It was to show the people that God had chosen these men to be His representatives and mediators before Him. It was a high honor and calling. The clothes that were worn were also to remind the High Priest who he represented before God. He bore the chest piece containing twelve stones symbolizing all the people from the twelve tribes across his heart and had two stones (one on each shoulder) with the tribes inscribed. This was to remind him that he needed to carry people on his shoulders and people in his heart.

 

As ministers of God's people, we must have the needs of people close to our heart and be willing carry these burdens on our shoulders. It can be taxing on you physically, and sometimes draining on you emotionally. But it is important to remember how important people are to God. We see this in the life - and particularly death - of Jesus.

 

We must have the needs of people close to our heart and be willing to carry their burdens upon our shoulders.

 

When Jesus died He bore the sins of people in order to give everybody an opportunity to be connected to God through Him. He didn't die for wealth or fame or success.... He died for people. Jesus died for what He valued most. And if Jesus loved people so much that He would die for them, then as His ministers we must value them as highly as Jesus did.

 

Jesus died for what He valued most. Jesus died for people.

 

In the similar way that the High Priest was clothed to symbolize his position before the people, we too must clothe ourselves in such a way that sets us apart from the culture around us. But the clothing we wear does not necessarily involve physical material. Paul tells us to "clothe ourselves in love since God has chosen us as His holy people" (Colossians 3:12-14 NLT). We represent God to the people by clothing ourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and love. We must represent people before God by carrying them on our hearts and upon our shoulders into His presence.

 

What do you clothe yourself with that distinguish yourself as a minister before the Lord? Can people see you are different from a non-believer? Who are you prepared to carry close to your heart and on your shoulders to minister to?

 

 

I believe that God calls all followers of Jesus Christ to be ministers to His people. And I believe that God wants all of His ministers to be just as enthusiastic and passionate about ministry in their last days as when they first started. So if we are going to live into the fullness of this calling over a long period of time, then we need to be deliberate in following the principles God set up for His ministers. I pray that through reading this passage you might be courageous enough to develop the principles God has given you to survive in ministry.

 

Read on to the next post as we continue to follow the steps to finish well in ministry.