I spend a lot of time thinking about how to finish strong in ministry. It is one of the parts of serving in a local church that I know will come one day…so I figure I should try to learn as much as I possibly can from others before that season of ministry arrives. God is incredibly gracious to give me several different people that I can talk with about how to finish well in ministry, and I’m sure that one day I’ll write a blog post on all that I’ve learned. That post will probably be delivered to this wonderful website in approximately 50 years. So start your countdown.

In the meantime, I thought I would write about a part of ministry that I have experienced & continue to enjoy: starting out in ministry. Starting out is tricky, there is so much that’s unknown! So I’m going to give you a list of helpful actions & attitudes for any of you that are getting into ministry.

I haven’t done all these things listed very well; in fact, there are several that I need to embrace more…but God’s grace is at work training me to pursue & delight in good things. So I’m not writing as one who’s perfected any of these, I’m a work in progress!

Starting Strong in Ministry Happens When…

1. You Find Your Identity in Christ

There is a real temptation in ministry to wrap your identity in a lot of things other than Christ. You can feel compelled to base it on the number of people coming on Sunday morning, or how many people got saved at summer camp, or maybe on how you feel a certain family or group of the church feels about you & your work. No matter what the temptation may be, it is critical that you remind yourself that your identity is truly in Christ. Being in Him makes all the difference in so many instances. Read Ephesians 1 & see how often that concept is drawn upon to encourage the Ephesian believers. For you, having your identity in Christ is your strength & peace.

2. You Listen to the Right Voices

Proverbs 1-9 is written from the perspective of a father talking to his son. The bottom line of this section of Scripture: be careful to whose voice you hear. There are all sorts of voices competing for your attention…in particular there is the voice of folly & the voice of wisdom. They both call out to you…so be careful, because the voices you listen to will have a tremendous impact on you. This is true for ministry.

Do you have people that point you to the Scripture as you navigate ministry situations? Do you have people that have experience in ministry that can give insight into your ministry? Do you have people that know you well enough to press you to discipline in all areas of your life? You need these people & not only that…you need to listen to them.

3. You Know Your Limits

We all have limits. Some people are more aware of theirs than others. Limits will be felt in ministry, and it is so vital for you to acknowledge them. We have limits in our experiences, we have limits in our skills, we have limits in our energy, we have limits in our knowledge. Everyone has an end…it is OK for you to not know everything, be everywhere, do all things.

4. You Remember Why You’re In It

In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” This is an encouragement for Timothy to remember his calling & to fully engage in ministry in light of what God has done in his life. There are a lot of traps in ministry. Ministry is not easy, but it is a great gift from God. So remember why you are in it: because God, being rich in mercy, made you alive in Christ & He has given you a desire to serve His people for His glory.

I am officially halfway through marathon training! That’s right, 9 weeks down…and 9 weeks to go. It sounds good, but over the last few weeks my legs were feeling tired & the schedule ahead scared me. Here’s a look at my marathon training schedule…

Hal Higdon Novice 2

As you can see, I still have long runs of 17, 18, 19, & 20 miles to go before the marathon fun begins…if my legs felt like this after running at most 15 miles, I am in trouble.

So I started reading about running health issues. Most people wrote about knee, ankle, & foot pain. Bottom line: running takes a toll on the body. The impact of running adds up…especially when you start running more significant distances.

Immediately following my 15 mile run, I knew I had to make a choice: keep running in my current running shoes (Newton Gravity) or make the switch to something with a bit more cushion. I did a lot of research & wound up purchasing some new running shoes…check them out!

hoke one oneI am now wearing a shoe that most closely resembles the Shape Up Shoes that were designed to tone up your body while you were on the move. Instead of being endorsed by Kim Kardashian or Joe Montana, they are endorsed by crazy people who run ultra marathons (50, 100 mile races).They are designed to cushion the impact of running while promoting natural running form. This new brand of running shoes is called the Hoka One One (own-ey, own-ey) & they actually work.

My body is still recovering from the pain of the past few weeks, but I’m getting better. So if you see a yellow flash run past you, don’t worry…it is just my new running shoes & me. And when you realize that it is me & ask yourself, “Is he really wearing those Shape Up looking shoes?” You know the answer: I really wear these shoes.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 6.02.09 PMI get that the image to the left doesn’t automatically appear all that cool. Any image that has your eyes first read the statement, “Don’t Let the Bling Blind You,” does not usually qualify as being all that great. But this image represents a big running accomplishment today.

I have been running now for over 2 years. There have been highs & lows so far in the experience, but overall it has been fun to see the lessons that running has taught me. Of all the lessons, the one that has been most profound & impactful on every area of my life is the value of discipline.

The concept of discipline is often seen in a negative light. I know that I have spent a lot of my life not thinking all that highly of discipline. But discipline is a huge benefit in life & here’s why: discipline creates freedom.

Discipline creates freedom because it frees you to do things that you never would have thought possible beforehand. If someone would have told me 2 years ago that I would ever enjoy running 100 miles in the span of 1 month…I would’ve thought this would never happen for 2 reasons: 1) I physically would never be able to run that far & 2) I would never actually enjoy running that much. But that’s the beauty of discipline: it gives you freedom.

So pursue discipline in lots of areas of life. Dream of ways that discipline could impact your life. Enjoy the value that discipline provides.