Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Interview, pt. 1

I was recently interviewed by a church member for a school project she had to complete. I found some of the questions very interesting and since the whole interview dealt with leadership and pastoral ministry, I thought I would share my responses this week in a series of three posts. Here's part one...

1. Are you leading with “Confidence in God’s call” (on your life)?

a. Are you solely relying on Christ in your teaching?

As I study and preach each week, I’m often reminded of Christ’s words in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” I know that Christ alone is the source of truth, and that He alone is the one who can open the eyes of the listeners to understand and obey the truth. I am sometimes tempted to rely on my own knowledge and abilities, but by God’s grace, I do my best to trust in God. As Paul said, we can plant and water, but God must cause the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). This is one reason prayer is such an important part of ministry – because it teaches us to stop working in our own strength and depend more fully upon God.

b. Are you being yourself in the way you teach or are you mimicking someone else’s style of teaching?

I think this is sort of a “both-and.” I do try to “be myself” in front of other people, speaking authentically and preaching from the heart. I don’t want to be fake, because people will see right through that. At the same time, I know that my own style is constantly evolving and hopefully growing steadily more effective. Part of sermon delivery is to experiment, try new things, and learn what is most effective for me as a speaker and to my specific audience. All of us are influenced by certain mentors who we either consciously or unconsciously emulate. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this. After all, “A disciple, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).

I know I have been influenced and probably reflect the style of my father, Dr. John MacArthur, R. Kent Hughes, and my former pastor Scott Ardavanis, to name a few. At the same time, I try to combine those styles and add my own personality into something that is uniquely “Stephen Jones.” When you listen to preachers on the radio, you will notice that no two speakers are alike. I think this is a beautiful example of the diversity of the Body of Christ, and how God uses many different people with different styles in his church.

c. Are you confident in where God has you at this time?

I am confident the Lord has called me to full-time ministry in a local church. There’s nothing I would rather be doing. I love teaching and preaching, love serving and shepherding God’s people, and love making an eternal impact for the glory of God and the spread of His kingdom. Sure, there are days when you grow discouraged and long for more visible fruit, but a big part of ministry is acting in faith and being diligent in the work God has called you to do.

2. Are you leading by “Equipping other Leaders”?

a. Are you formally or informally training? (Formally: long term, ex: Jesus and disciples; Informally: short term, casual, when convenient)

I am striving to do both. After all, this is the main duty of a pastor, to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” (Ephesians 4:12). The very mission statement of our church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ by reaching and teaching everyone.” Once a person has accepted Christ, I feel my duty is to help them grow in their Christian walk and move toward greater maturity in Christ. This is a life-long process of teaching or “discipleship”.

My primary area of formal training is studying and preaching each week. This is how I can reach the most people and make the biggest impact. The purpose of preaching is to teach God’s Word, instruct in sound doctrine, develop discernment, and help people learn how to study and apply God’s truth in their own lives. I also desire to move each member along our discipleship process, from evangelism, to early Christian follow-up, to ongoing nurture, to training in ministry (where they are actually being trained to help others). I have a formal discipleship group called SaLT (Servant-Leadership Training) where I meet with several men each month to take them through a systematic program and equip them for ministry in the church. I would eventually like to do more practical, hands-on training as well.

Despite these more formal aspects of training, much of my ministry is quite informal in nature. Talking with people after church, visiting them at home or in the hospital during the week, making phone calls, sending notes, and having people over to the house are all ways I seek to build relationships and informally train and model Christian living to my flock.

b. Do you have leaders trained up for when the church grows and you won’t be able to handle as much, such as youth group, Sunday school classes, etc?

They say the whole purpose of ministry is to work yourself out of a job. I’m seeking to do just that. As much as possible, I am praying for, training, modeling, and equipping other men to share the load and eventually take over the reins. None of us are here forever, so we are always trying to invest in the next generation, training up faithful men so they will be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). We are blessed at our church to already have several godly deacons who share responsibilities with me, and through ministries like SaLT and Young Adults Bible Study, I am working to train up others who will hopefully become future leaders in the church.

(Check back in tomorrow for part two)

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