How long could you do ministry without God?

I wonder how long I could be successful in ministry without God? I’ve been in vocational ministry for 31 years, and I seldom encounter a situation I haven’t seen before. I have a stockpile of sermons to pull from, and many other places where I can grab a complete sermon with a moments notice. I do strategy, staffing and structure in my sleep. My experience, connections and the internet give me all the tools I need to do ministry, and do it at a very high level. God is good, but often not all that necessary.

How about you? How long could your church function, and function well, without God? You have your sermons planned through Easter, your song lists loaded into Planning Center and your small group resources online. You have well-trained volunteers and the best staff money can buy. Your IT and weekend tech have redundancies built in to handle any contingency. The people who attend your church know that they will have a quality experience every weekend regardless what might happen behind the scenes. Certainly God is welcome at your church, but is he really necessary?

Israel created an elaborate and efficient church that ran very well without God. The priests and Levites excelled at their roles, the sacrificial system was geared to handle the crowds at Passover efficiently, and the Jewish people knew their needs were met with consistency and care. 400 years after God stepped away the Jews no longer missed him. They had created a church without God.

And then one weekend he showed up. He ignored their service run down, he tore up their resource table and he violated their policies and procedures. Every time he came to a service havoc ensued. Finally they had to either completely change the way they did church or kill God. They chose to kill God.

I am all for policies, procedures, strategy, training, planning and technology. If fact, except for policies and procedures, these are the things I love the most. And I am amazed to see how effectively churches use these tools to reach people far from God and lead them into biblical discipleship. What scares me, shakes me to my core, however is how easily we can substitute the tools of worship for genuine worship. How often we find ourselves worshipping the creation rather than the creator. How many weekends we leave church feeling satisfied because the music was good, the sermon was well received and the attendance was up without even considering if God was pleased.

How long has it been since I have been on my face before God, desperate to hear from him, knowing that I am absolutely toast without him. When was the last time I was so hungry to experience the power and presence of God that I could not eat, I could not sleep until I felt the supernatural touch of his Holy Spirit? When was the last time I was so overwhelmed by the responsibility of preaching the Word that I could barely breathe?

It is not all that hard to build a ministry without God. What a terrifying place to be.

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6 Responses to “How long could you do ministry without God?”

  1. Brandon August 20, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    I would say about a year. That’s how long I lasted doing it on my own. Then it all crashed.

  2. Stan August 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I have no timeline, but not long. Sometimes I feel like I have ministry figured out and things are going just like I want them to. And after a few weeks or at most a few months, things drastically change and all of a sudden I’m completely reminded, that I am nothing without God. Great blog!

  3. Gary Durbin August 20, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

    Thanks Jeff…great challenge and questions we need to keep in front of us.

  4. chrisrus August 21, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    How long you can do ministry without God is inextricably linked to how long you can do your personal life without God. In the same way that your body lets you know that you are sick, your soul lets you know when you are not healthy. Are we ignoring the indicators? If so, why?

    Chris

  5. Stephanie Haynes August 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Well said Geoff. I am right there needing to be on my face before Him, but didn’t realize it until you asked the question. Sad…I KNOW I can’t speak or write anything apart from Him, but I often find myself relying on my own strength (and timing.) Thank you!

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