Today there are many tools and methods used in Christian ministry. Some are very helpful whereas others are very unhelpful. Sadly, many of these are designed to appeal to the desires of people. This method is often referred to as being “Seeker Sensitive”. Obviously we don’t ever want to use methods that are mean to people, but to tailor everyone around people’s desires is unbiblical. The goal of a lot of these methods is to help produce a successful ministry. Many people measure a successful ministry by large numbers. Is this legitimate? Biblically speaking, true success is not determined by large numbers but is determined by faithfulness (cf. and ). Without question, the apostle Paul was a faithful and fervent servant of Jesus Christ. He took his calling with great seriousness and this was evidenced in his service for the Lord. Towards the end of his letter to the Romans Paul shares some thoughts regarding his ministry and some of his plans for the future. This section provides us with great insight into the characteristics and conduct of a ministry that glorifies God. That is what a successful ministry is.
THE CHARACTERISTICS A SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY (15:14-21)
Though Paul had a unique ministry to the Gentiles (15:15-16), it contained the characteristics that are glorifying to God. What are the characteristics of a ministry that brings God glory? In we discover three necessary components to a faithful ministry as seen in the life of Paul. Firstly it will be a priestly ministry (15:14-16). Paul viewed as a priestly act in which he offered up to God spiritual sacrifices. Paul’s goal in serving was to be pleasing to God. Secondly, it will be a powerful ministry (15:17-19). Paul did not draw power from his own abilities, personality or social network. The power of his ministry was from the Holy Spirit. This reveals humility and confidence in the Lord. Finally, it will be a preaching ministry (15:20-21). Paul was not interested in being entertaining or tapping into societies priorities. He understood that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (), so he preached the gospel (15:20a). For Paul he had a particular calling to do that in places where Christ had not been named (15:20b), and this fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah ( cf. ).
THE CONDUCT OF A SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY (15:22-33)
In practice, how did Paul carry out his ministry? He didn’t rely on man-centered methods, but rather he conducted his ministry in accordance to the will of God. This was demonstrated by the way he dealt with plans for the future (15:22-24), the priorities for the present (15:25-29), and then requested prayer for the ministry (15:30-32). Regarding his plans for the future, Paul had a longing to see the gospel spread to the ends of the world. He had a desire and plans to go to Spain. Even though Paul had a holy ambition to be used of God in the ministry with his future plans, he did not neglect his priorities for the present (15:25-29). Money had been collected to provide aid for some struggling saints in Jerusalem (15:25). This seems to be the opposite direction of his future plans, but Paul conducted his ministry by being committed to priorities of the present. Paul’s focus was to complete his present responsibilities before he moved on to the next (15:28-29). Paul understood that in was always in need of the Lord’s help in his service. For this reason he appeals to the Roman Christians to prayer for him (15:30-32). He desired that he would accomplish his present task and then travel to Rome, with the view of going on to Spain. Of course Paul does make it to Rome, but in an unexpected way, namely as a prisoner.
When we strive to minister according to the will of God, things might not work out the way we planned, but we can trust Lord and ought to honour Him. Paul’s ministry was a successful one. Not because of its popularity or prestige – but because it was a faithful ministry that brought glory to God.
8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.
19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.
21 My son, do not lose sight of these—
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
21 but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”
15 so shall he sprinkle many nations;
kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which has not been told them they see,
and that which they have not heard they understand.