by Warren Heckman.
Over the years I’ve watched numerous ministers and missionaries, trying to figure out why some are more fruitful than others. There are many factors, of course. Snap judgments are usually incorrect. We are not “all created equal”!
Some are far superior intellectually, others have had greater academic opportunities, a few are just plain knockout handsome, obviously a number are gifted/talented to the max, and you can observe those who are personality-plus. Deeper than all of these things are the spiritual qualities and characteristics. We all agree that fruitfulness is birthed out of sincere and serious seeking after God, studying his Word, living faithfully, praying, fasting, and following spiritual disciplines.
Yet I note another important factor in what enables us to be productive over the years. What is it? It is personal motivation. Some may call it having positive faith, enthusiasm, or optimism. Whatever the label, it makes a dramatic difference.
My son, Garth, and I recently went downtown Minneapolis to the Target Center for an all-day Motivation Seminar that featured various well-known speakers. We heard General Colin Powell, quarterback Brett Favre, Zig Ziglar, Tamara Lowe, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Sarah Palin, Ron Gardenhire and others who shared their success stories with enthusiasm, humor and pizzazz. I didn’t necessarily endorse every viewpoint held by every speaker, but as we sat through that long day surrounded by 10,000+ other wannabes, it got me thinking about all of us in ministry.
We work in an especially difficult time of recession, financial fear, unemployment, uncertainty and government enlargement. Our congregations need to hear the Bible’s awesome message of hope, the Good News. When people leave church on Sunday, have we put a spring back into their step, or an additional burden on their back? I’m not talking about sugarcoating the gospel. I’m just saying a message of faith, hope and joy does more good than criticism, complaining, fear, angst, and negativity.
I can hardly inspire, encourage, enthuse, or motivate others unless it comes out of me in a genuine flow. Paul said to the young minister Timothy, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:6-7).
How do we become expectant, joyful, full of faith and enthusiasm? Here are a few things I’ve found very helpful in my ministry:
1- Be faithful in daily spiritual devotions/quiet time.
2- Read stirring biographies.
3- Hang around exciting, positive people.
4- Read motivational books. When I was 13, my pastor said, “Don’t read The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale.” The old quip among many Christians back then was “I find Paul appealing and Peale appalling.” So of course, being a curious teenager, I went out and read the book! I found it helped my negative, pessimistic, cynical outlook. Throughout the years, I’ve found many good, nurturing things in those kinds of books, most recently by Joel Osteen. Remember, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. (And if I need a little balance, I then go and read something by David Wilkerson–ha!)
5- Live a Luke 2:52 balanced life; in other words, develop intellectually, stay physically fit, grow spiritually, be active socially.
6- Meditate on Philippians 4:8-”Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
7- Help people in need.
When we are full and running over, our ministry will be more fruitful than ever.
Warren Heckman is the U.S. National Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.