For some time now, many churches have been in a crisis of effectiveness. I know many church leaders who work hard. They spend hours and hours in ministry each week, but don’t see many results.
There’s a difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Howard Hendricks has said that efficient leaders do things right, while effective leaders do the right things. We need to strive to be like the latter.
The Apostle Paul gives us an example of ministry effectiveness in Romans 15. In that passage, we find seven pillars of effective ministry.
1. We build an effective ministry on God’s grace.
Paul tells us that he served in ministry not in his own skills or innate goodness, but “because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles” (Romans 15:15-16 NIV). None of us earn our ministry, and we’ll never deserve it.
God’s grace means that he knows every mistake we’ll ever make in ministry, and he uses us despite our flaws.
Our ministry is a calling, and we should be grateful that God allows us not only to be saved but also to serve him in ministry, recognizing it as a blessing.
2. We build an effective ministry on God’s Word.
Paul says that God has given him “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God” (Romans 15:16 NIV). Our ministry can’t simply be based on good ideas. Only God’s Word has the power to help people grow.
In Acts 20:32, Paul describes the power of the gospel, “which can build you up and give you an inheritance” (NIV). Politics can’t do that. Neither can pop psychology. Only God’s Word has the power to build us up in Christ.
3. We build an effective ministry for God’s glory.
Paul’s ministry wasn’t about promoting a personality. He wanted people to be impressed not with him but with Jesus: “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done” (Romans 15:17-18 NIV).
This wasn’t false modesty from Paul. Throughout the New Testament, he was clear about his strengths and his weaknesses. But he also knew that his strength came from God. His desire to serve the Lord came from God. God deserved all the glory from it.
4. We build an effective ministry in God’s power.
Paul had no misconceptions that he could do ministry on his own. He credits his ministry to “the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:19 NIV).
He tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 about a thorn in the flesh that taught him to depend upon God’s power, which was “made perfect in weakness” (NIV). Our greatest life messages often come from our weaknesses, not our strengths.
When we minister out of our pain, we have to depend on God’s power. So when God blesses that ministry, he gets all the glory.
5. We build an effective ministry through planning under God’s direction.
In Romans 15:20-24, Paul lays out his ministry plan. He describes his ambition to share the Gospel where Christ isn’t known—and his plan to share the Gospel in Spain. Look closer at Paul’s ministry, and you’ll see he was always strategic about where he went. For example, he chose key strategic locations as launching points for the Gospel.
Some people believe that it’s unspiritual to plan in ministry. But over and over in Proverbs, the Bible tells us to make plans. In fact, Proverbs 19:2 warns us what could happen if we don’t plan: “It is dangerous and sinful to rush into the unknown” (TLB). Effective ministries plan under the direction of God.
6. We build an effective ministry on the support of God’s people.
It takes money to have an effective ministry, so ministry leaders can’t be afraid to ask for it; it’s a valid part of the ministry. Paul certainly didn’t shy away from talking about the financial needs of ministry. In Romans 15:26, he describes the response of the Macedonian and Achaean believers to his request for financial aid for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.
We can’t be afraid to ask people to support what God has called us to do. The giver always benefits from giving more than the recipient. Don’t withhold God’s blessing from people who could support your work.
7. We build effective ministry on prayer.
Paul ends this portion of Romans by urging readers to “join me in my struggle by praying to God for me” (Romans 15:30 NIV). The New Testament church prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). When we have the kind of prayer the New Testament church did, we’ll also have God’s power like the New Testament church did. Prayer must be the backbone of all we do.
We can’t be effective in ministry on our own. Let’s strive to follow Paul’s example and lean on God’s help to build a ministry that will last.