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What is a ministry?

Can ministries pass from father to son? Is a calling transferable through generations?

Rupert Murdoch. Now, that’s not a name you expected to see at the head of an article. For those of you untouched by this man’s influence (i.e. those who don’t read newspapers or watch satellite TV), he’s the man who brought us celebrity phone tapping (News of the World) and “Are You Smarter than a 10 Year Old?”(on the Sky TV network) … as well as The Times and The Simpsons (D’oh!)

He’s not a young man and is eager to ensure that his multi-billion dollar empire, News International, is going to stay in steady hands. So his eldest daughter and two sons are on the board and will eventually take over the reins of the multinational corporation. The flamboyant crook, Robert Maxwell, also left a legacy to his sons when he slipped off that boat near the Canary Islands, but the less said about that particular legacy the better! All through the world of big business and the media we read of the same story. Successful enterprises becoming family legacies and dynasties, from Jones & Son to Dallas (the TV show).

We also see the same transference in the Christian world. Ministries often pass from father to son. There are many examples of this, but I won’t single any out as I don’t wish to give the impression of partiality. We need to pause and reconsider that statement, ministries pass from father to son and first ask what a ministry is?

God places a vision in someone’s heart. He is telling that person that He has a job for him/her to do. This, of course, requires a primed and willing heart in the first case, such as in the case of Isaiah.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)

When this willingness matches up with a timely commissioning from God, then something is birthed. It may be just (to borrow a cliché) a tiny acorn and it may stay that way throughout its life … as a tiny acorn. Ministries don’t have to always grow into mighty oaks. The key is to stay true to God’s initial spark in your soul and then to allow it to grow naturally in proportion to the amount of divine food it receives, rather than as a result of your blood, sweat and elbow-grease. If you stay close to the original vision and it does grow into a mighty oak then God has decided that you are capable of receiving great responsibility. He feels that He can trust you. This is precious and you must do all you can not to blow it! But blow it we sometimes do …

When I became a believer I already had a creative writing gift and in my naiveté felt that it was a simple case of transference, from one kingdom to the other. Here am I, I prayed to a God who had not yet asked, send me! Then, without a moment’s hesitation I drew up my strategy of how I was going to bless God and then set about implementing my master plan. Oh how glad you’ll be, Lord, that you took me into your team!

For around fifteen years I plodded away, creating, writing, devising this that and the other, from books, websites and plays and tracts to computer games, screenplays and board games. In some cases (the Saltshakers website being an example) there was a measure of success, but mostly my endeavours fizzled out as damp squibs. Not that this put me off, so time, money and energy was spent on the next project and Monica had to get used to throwing her arms up in exasperation, or covering her face in frustration! The fact is that a creative person can sometimes find it very hard to switch off. My problem was in not finding that silence before the Lord, when He can talk and you can listen.

Then one day God finally got through to me. It wasn’t that He hadn’t tried before, but we can be our own worst enemies in our wilfulness to go our own way, even when we think it is His way. So God spoke and gave me an ultimatum; if I stop my vain efforts in trying to make it in the secular world, He will find me an audience, as long as I write what He told me to write. Sounded like a good deal for me, so I threw away my carefully researched TV kitchen-sink drama and wrote a short article with the title, The Idiot’s guide to the Middle East conflict. That was 2002 and I’ve not looked back. He didn’t promise me fame or riches; He just taught me that, if I really wanted a ministry, it had to be on His terms.

The point I’m making is that a ministry has to be birthed and sustained by God, in accordance with the time we spend listening to Him and acting in line with what He says. Anything else is just a business, a company, a corporation. We mustn’t confuse the two.

For the previous article in this series, click here.

For the next article in this series, click here.

To find out what is my favourite book of the Bible, click here.

You can reach Steve with any comments or questions at the Saltshakers Web Community website.

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