Seven Ways to Stay Focused in Ministry!

I have had the best dad in the whole world my whole life.  He has been faithfully serving the Lord from before I was even born, 40+ years!  When I tell my testimony it always starts with “my Mom at the kitchen table,” however, my Dad has always been the backbone of faith in our home and lives.  Therefore, I can most assuredly say that if it wasn’t for his prayers and godly example I wouldn’t have been saved when I was.

My dad’s love for people and the church is so contagious- just ask anyone who knows him!  He has literally served in every place imaginable in the local church… from bus driver to youth worker, drummer in the worship band to leading small groups, outreach volunteer to nursing home preacher, and so much more (and sometimes many different positions at one time)!

On top of all the practical ministry, he has been on numerous church committees serving the pastors with his godly wisdom from 50+ years in the business world.  His motto after retiring from the business arena was, “I’m not retiring, but re-firing!”  And that is exactly what he did.  By taking online classes he has become an ordained pastor in charge of discipleship at his local church.  It just amazes me all he has done for the Lord, both humbly and with a cheerful heart!

As result of having such a great godly father I have received countless examples of faith and conduct in my 17yrs of serving the Lord.  However, there is one in particular that I wish to highlight today- my dad’s advice to stay focused.  Usually this advice comes after I have shared a hardship in the ministry or after I have gotten hurt/bummed out by the people I am leading.

My Dad’s Advice

His advice is usually said like this, “Stay focused Joe, God has great things ahead for you… just stay focused!”  Then this initial advice is generally followed up with, “Don’t get distracted. You know what God has called you to do.  Success doesn’t happen overnight- God will honor your labor in His time.”

Wow!  Such powerful and timely advice, especially for a person like myself who can get caught up doing so many “good things” and yet get tired and distracted from doing the “God things!”  Thus, I thought I would share out of my personal experience what this great advice has meant to me as a discipleship making church planter and local elder.  I hope you enjoy it and get some good “take aways” from this simple, yet powerful advice- stay focused!

Seven Ways To Stay Focused in Ministry

1. Learn the Difference Between “Good Things” and “God Things”

It may be good to go to church, but you don’t have to go to church every time the doors are open.  Also, all ministry at your local church is good- but you can’t join the youth, children and outreach teams and still have time to take care of your family/job.  Therefore, you need to know the difference between “good things” and “God things.”

Good leaders in the church don’t want you to burn out and harm the other God things in your life.  I actually wrote a lesson in our 201 discipleship book called, “The Balanced Life,” for the purpose of helping new on-fire disciples to not burn out!

Therefore, find what God is telling you specifically to do in each and every season of your life and do that with all your energy.

Life Lesson #1:  Be open to times of sacrificial giving and radical devotion.  However, don’t do these things unless God has led you and you are at peace in all the other areas of your life, 1 Corinthians 10:23.

2. Clearly Define What Your Main Purpose in Ministry Is 

Every disciple has to understand God’s specific call on their life.  For example, Paul was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, Romans 11:13.  I am called to plant churches through discipleship.  One of my mentors, George Neau was called to start a Bible college,  What is your main purpose in ministry?

This purpose is what will keep you focused when times get tough.  If don’t have a call to work with youth, chances are when things get hard you’ll want to quit.  However, if you are sure that God has called you to work with teenagers and be a leader in their life then no matter what comes your way you can’t quit because you see working with youth as a part of who you are.  Leaving them would be like trying to “cut your own arm off!”

Life Lesson #2: Know your purpose and never let go of it!

3. Fight the Temptation of Being Distracted By Other People’s Agendas 

This is the hardest one for me to do because I love to help people and do all I can for them in their times of need.  However, if I did what “everyone wanted me to do” “when they wanted me to do it” I wouldn’t be able to do the things God has called me to do- plus, I would lose my mind and family along the way!

We will always face distractions with other people’s agenda, but we don’t have to give in to them.  Sometimes, the best thing you can tell someone is, “No.”  Go ahead, practice saying it right now aloud, “No.”

For example, someone may say, “Hey, sorry to bother you last minute but I really need your help to do such and such… can you help me?”  Okay, you can do it… say it… “No.”  Don’t be rude or mean, simply say something like, “Sorry, I’m really not able to do that for you right now.”  Or, “I’m sorry I can’t do that for you, but if you would let me I can find someone who can.”

Now, this doesn’t mean we should be lazy or not open to “Holy Ghost interruptions,” but there is no way you can do “all things” for “all people” “all of the time.”  Jesus didn’t even do this!  He didn’t travel to India and China and heal everyone in the whole world.  As a matter of fact, He said He was just called to the “lost sheep of Israel” in His three-year ministry (Matthew 15:24).  Thus, it was the disciples job after His resurrection to go to the whole world.

I would suggest to do “all the good you can” “whenever you can” to the “most people you can”- but after that, its okay to say “no.”  That is why God has built the church with many anointed people a part of it- you’re not everyone’s Savior.

Plus, if there are people around you in the ministry that are only happy and satisfied when “you personally do everything for them,” their problem is with God- not you.  Don’t let people make you into an idol- teach them to seek God for themselves and trust the other leaders in the church whom God has also placed His Spirit of wisdom and power upon.  All the disciples in our church are taught to share the load and not to be condemned by people’s “false judgments/expectations.”

Life Lesson #3:  Learn from Jesus’ “mode of operation” to only do what you see the Father doing.  Be free from the guilt and manipulation of people’s lack of trust in God- both you and your family will be happy you did!

4. Find People to Encourage Your Purpose

Once you’ve discovered your purpose ask God to send you great friends and leaders that will encourage you to stay focused.  A true friend doesn’t let you quit your purpose- they challenge you to stick with it and “never quit!”

I thank God for people like my father, Pastor Anthony Freeman, and other close friends who never let me quit, back down, or give up on the things God has told me to do.  You’ll need these people to encourage you in your times of testing and celebrate the victories along the way- so start looking for them now, Ecclesiastes 4:12.

They aren’t always going to agree with all your decisions, so be open to their correction or different perspectives.  Remember, don’t take their correction or advice as “condemnation,” but rather as “constructive collaboration.”

Life Lesson #4: Good friends and leaders will only want the best for you and your ministry, thus their advice and encouragement can and should be trusted.

5. Let Others Run Their Race

Often times I can hear of another pastor’s victories and instead of being happy I can become sad and depressed because I feel I’m not running my race fast enough.  On the other hand, I can be affected by people around me quitting, having bad attitudes, and slowing down.  The error in both situations is the same, “lack of focus in my purpose by looking at others running their race.”

Therefore, the best thing to do is exactly what the Bible says, “rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn,” Romans 12:15.  Simply put, when I see another minister or church blessed I should rejoice with them.  The problem comes in when I start “comparing,” however, if I’m rejoicing then I can see it as a “confirmation” that if God fulfilled their purpose- God will do the same for me if I remain faithfully focused.

Also, if someone around me quits or has a lazy attitude, I can mourn and have a “30 minute funeral.”  Afterwards, I  can wipe away the tears and move on staying focused on what God told me to do.  My destiny is not connected either to the “good news” or the “bad news” of those around me.

Life Lesson #5: Don’t look to the left or to the right- look straight ahead.  Ask God to give you the ability to stay 100% focused on your specific calling- say no to “jealousy” and “discouragement!”

6. Don’t Sweat the Small Things

Ministry is full of “little fires” everywhere you look.  Even the greatest churches and ministries have financial trouble, people leave, leadership shifting, attendance drops, and bad reports.  However, what makes the great ministries what they are is that they have learned to not let the little fires keep them from doing what God told them to do.

One of the secrets I have learned from successful leaders is to know the difference between being a fire-fighter (putting out fires) and a fire-starter (creating passion in people).  I’m not promoting lack of organization or neglecting to solve real problems in the ministry.  However, I am advocating knowing the difference between wasting your time trying to fix something that is not worth it and focusing your time with people and the things that are building the vision.

For example: If attendance drops and there is no real problem- don’t sweat it.  Sometimes there are just seasons where people are not as committed as in other times (such as summer months).  Or if someone leaves the church with a bad attitude after everyone tried to help them, don’t sweat it.  People come and go all the time, if your church is doing the right things ten more people can take their place.

I teach young church planters to not even really sweat weekly attendance and offerings.  Why?  Because there are so many “ups in downs” in the first five years of the new church.  Therefore, to look at numbers over a three-six month period.

Life Lesson #6: Stop being just a fire-fighter and stay focused on the most important things God has given you to do- making disciples (John 6:66)!

7. Follow the Examples Found in the Bible

The Bible is full of examples of people who stayed focused and didn’t quit on their purpose- people like Joseph, Daniel, and Jeremiah.  Also, the Bible contains people like Abraham, David, and Samson who fulfilled their purpose even though they made mistakes along the way.  Therefore, the lives of men and women in the Bible should serve you as powerful examples of how to stay on track and finish your race!

Be encouraged to know you are not alone- they made it and so can you.  If God is for you, who can stand against you?

Life Lesson #7:  Find inspiration in the Biblical characters to stay focused and do all that God has called you to do- they made it and so can you!

Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


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