I sat there with my notebook and pen in hand, ready to write down all the advice I was about to get.
“What can I be doing now as a teenager to prepare for vocational ministry?”
I was ready for practical advice – books to read, skills to acquire, conferences to attend. But what I got was much better…
“Learn how to walk with God and live a life of holiness. Don’t get so caught up in ministry aspirations that you neglect your walk with Jesus.”
Honestly, I was disappointed by my pastor’s answer. It felt like a cop-out to me. But now, as someone who is in full-time ministry, I see that his advice was spot-on.
“Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house.” (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
Do you see what Paul just said? He makes a connection between cleansing and usefulness. The point is that if we desire to be used by God, our lives must be marked by holiness.
What about organizational skills? Time management? Vision casting? Dynamic teaching?
To be sure, those things are helpful. But God is far more concerned with character than skill.
So if you are like me, and you believe God has called you to ministry, let me encourage you to immerse yourself in the building blocks of growth that God has given us: Scripture, prayer, community, evangelism, and worship. To help you grow in these areas, let me suggest a few things:
Three Practices that Produce Holiness
1. Develop a capacity for stillness.
We’ve all been there. You’re reading your Bible, trying to get the most out of it. But there seems to be a mental wall you can’t get through – something that keeps you from paying attention. You’re struggling to stay focused as you keep thinking of everything you need to get done today. As you try to pray, you feel the urge to check your phone. Not because you got a notification, just because you feel the need to do so.
Why do we do this? Because we are addicted to distraction. We are losing our ability to think deeply for long periods of time.Our world is fast-paced, and our attention is constantly divided. In our desire for productivity, we believe the myth of multitasking - that by doing many things at once, we get more done. Click To Tweet
Our world is fast-paced, and our attention is constantly divided. In our desire for productivity, we believe the myth of multitasking – that by doing many things at once, we get more done. In reality, we may end up doing many things, but our divided attention causes us to do none of them well.
Forcing yourself to put away the distractions and focus on one thing at a time will help you develop a greater capacity for stillness.
A capacity for stillness will deepen your prayer life. It will help you study the Bible. It will help you listen to others. Because it will prevent you from constantly thinking about the next thing.
2. Embrace accountability and mentoring.
We are all tempted to think we can live the Christian life alone. Our sense of independence and self-sufficiency recoils at the idea of having someone mentor and hold us accountable.
But every Timothy needs a Paul. Give someone you trust full access into your life and invite them to ask you hard questions. Let them ask you about your walk with God, your fight against sin, your relationships, your plans for the future, your work ethic – and commit to full honesty.
This kind of transparency only gets harder as you get older, so begin now and make it a normal part of your life. The best way to have this kind of relationship is through your local church. Go all-in with your faith family and embrace accountability and mentoring.
3. Begin discipling somebody.
We tend to be paralyzed by the fear of inadequacy.
“I don’t know enough.”
“I’m not mature enough.”
“What if I say something wrong?”
But one of the best ways to learn is by doing. If you want to learn how to make disciples, you must begin somewhere. Most people don’t pick up a baseball bat and immediately hit home runs – the same is true in ministry. If you allow the fear of inadequacy to paralyze you, you’ll miss out on the most important part of disciple-making: Starting.Most people don’t pick up a baseball bat and immediately hit home runs - the same is true in ministry. If you allow the fear of inadequacy to paralyze you, you’ll miss out on the most important part of disciple-making: Starting. Click To Tweet
Every Christian is capable of discipling someone else to their own level of spiritual maturity. No matter where you are in your spiritual life, you can lead someone who is a few steps behind you. Seek someone out and invest in their life. Take the conversations your mentor has with you and have them with the person you’re discipling.
You’ll learn how to be patient. You’ll learn how to have hard conversations. You’ll learn how to celebrate steps of growth. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to walk alongside somebody in their spiritual journey, and you’ll have a front-row-seat to their growth.
A Heart That Walks with Jesus
It’s tempting to rely on our own gifting and strengths in our preparation for vocational ministry. But do not neglect your soul.
The gifts, strengths, and skills will come. What better soil for them to be cultivated in than a heart that loves and walks with Jesus?
Who you are and your relationship with Christ is infinitely more important than what you can produce. So in a culture that values the tangibles of production and achievement, will you prioritize the hidden character of the heart?