A Focus for Ministry

by Rev. Joe Hoover

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Recently I picked up a copy of Benchmarks of Quality in the Church by Norman Shawchuck and Gustave Rate (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994). Very early in this book I discovered a theme, a direction, a focus for my ministry. One of the first benchmarks mentioned was that of spirituality. "The pastor and leaders who merely assume the presence of a vital spirituality will do so to their ultimate regret. Spirituality is not to be assumed; rather it must be defined, nurtured, and attended" (p.27). After reading these words I realized that I must be on a spiritual journey myself and then I must lead by example, by teaching and by encouraging others to practice spirituality. How do I do this?

According to John Wesley, the goal of every Christian should be to have holiness of heart and life -- a life filled with the grace of God which is devoted to complete love for God and neighbor. To do this one must practice the means of grace as instituted by example by Jesus Christ. These are listed in the Discipline of the United Methodist Church in the section called the Doctrinal Standards of the United Methodist Church. They include the following:

  1. Searching the Scriptures. John Wesley said the Bible should be read individually, systematically and daily. The purpose for reading the Bible is to know the will of God. Discipleship Bible Study, Precept Ministries, and other intensive Bible studies need to be encouraged.
  2. Prayer. John Wesley believed that the Christian life must be lived in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Prayer is the connection. He said to pray without ceasing. He prayed daily and at an early hour and at the evening hour. He also prayed at other times when necessary. He believed in private prayer and in corporate prayer. Every church should have an emphasis on prayer-encouraging altar prayer, studies on prayer, lay prayers, and intercessory prayers. .
  3. Fasting. John Wesley called this a spiritual discipline to enhance the Holy Life. He practiced fasting at least once a week. He said it was an expression of sorrow for sin, a special sign of penitence for sin of indulging in excess eating and drinking. It is a way to help focus ones prayers. Fasting is enhanced by the giving to the poor. .
  4. Communion. John Wesley said to celebrate the Lord's Supper as often as possible. It is a powerful way to realize the cleansing of Christ and an encouragement to live a better life. Opportunities for the celebration of communion should increase. .
  5. Christian Conferencing. These are opportunities for joining with others for worship, fellowship and ministry. Spiritual growth is personal, but it needs to be accountable in a small group. A series of small groups in the church with accountability for spiritual growth is needed. .
  6. Public Worship. John Wesley encouraged worship in the homes, in small classes, and at large public meetings. We need to teach that worship can happen at other times other than the worship hour. .

I have become convinced that these six disciplines should be the kingpins for my pastorate. When these are in place then there will be a better chance that the pastor and people will be sensitive to the voice of God and follow his directions as the church moves out into its community.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume V, Part 4, April 1997.

Copyright 1999 Joe Hoover. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.