On Entering Into New Ministry.
In the course of your ministry journey in the Salvation Army, you could receive up to ten or more assignments—ten or more transitions, departures, arrivals, opportunities. So, how should you enter a new ministry?
The Apostle John describes the greatest ministry transition possible: God becoming flesh: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”1 This is the most concise and compelling statement in Scripture of what theologians call the “Incarnation.” Jesus is the Word, fully God and fully human, come from the Father to “tabernacle” his glory at a specific time and place in history. The incarnation, of course, is and an unrepeatable work of God in Christ. Yet, when thinking about entering a new ministry, our purpose is the same: to glorify God.
But what would that look like? John offers the answer in his brief, profound description of the incarnate Word being: “full of grace and truth.”
What is grace? Grace is one the great Christian concepts in the New Testament. Grace signifies joy, kindness and favor, often when undeserved. In grace, God provides His Son as Savior. Gospel grace is often associated with God’s power over sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, Paul writes to the Ephesians: “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”2 Grace, for Paul, is God’s operational power, not Paul’s power, remembering God’s word to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 3
What is truth? This famous retort from Pilate to Jesus highlights how truth, in Christian understanding, is much more than the opposite of falsehood. John writes that living by the truth means coming fully into the light, with nothing hidden before God. “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”4 Truth, like grace, is freeing.5 Truth sanctifies.6 Truth is a kingdom power.7 Scripture speaks of truth as a way of life and being. So, Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life.” Truth is a Person, the incarnate Christ and the Holy Spirit, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”8
Using grace and truth as our guide, how shall you enter a new ministry?
Unless this is your first ministry placement, you come from somewhere else. The first step in entering a new ministry is leaving your last ministry well. In our work with many churches, we encounter too many leaders who leave bitter and too few leaders who leave well—with grace and truth. Leaving well means leaving reconciled. No regrets or grudges. “As far as it depends on you,” Paul writes, “live peaceably with all.”9 This includes leaving in peace. Leaving in peace means cleaning up the messes you made before you leave, or being truthful about the messes
that remain. It means blessing the people you leave behind and blessing the leader who follows you. Have you left well?
Beginning a new ministry with grace and truth means to enter like Jesus, with humility, considering the needs of those you are serving as greater than your own. Of the many steps to take, I will mention three that embody grace and truth like Jesus:
Be quick to listen: Many think leadership is about knowing the right answers and getting things done. Jesus never led that way. Jesus asked relational questions. He listened graciously. He engaged people one on one: emotionally and spiritually. He called his disciples “friends.”
Speak the truth: Your greatest asset is trust. Nothing kills trust like a lie or hedging the truth. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Confess your faults. Admit when you are wrong. Praise individual events. Correct patterns. When evaluating others, be candid, but kind. Treat all around you as responsible adults, not dependent children.
Enter with leaving in mind: You are a steward appointed to a specific place for a specific time, the keeper of a flame you may need to ignite but which will shine long after you are gone. Use your spiritual gifts to do your best work so that, in the end, people see the grace and truth of Jesus through you and glorify God.
–Jim Van Yperen
1 John 1:14
2 Eph 3:7
3 2 Cor 12:9
4 John 3:21
5 John 8:45
6 John 17:17
7 John 18:37-38 8 John 16:13
9 Romans 12:18