Dear New Christian, Please Don’t Start A Ministry.

Congregation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago I volunteered with an organization that ministered to men in bondage to sexual sin. A man who claimed the Lord set him free from bondage to sin had started the ministry soon after his “conversion.” However, when the Christian life did not prove to be trouble-free, this man turned his back on Christ and went headlong back into sin damaging the name of Christ among those to whom he “ministered” and jeopardizing his own soul.

Sadly this kind of thing happens a lot. Flush with the high of a conversion experience, many people want to go right into ministry, even ministry leadership. While they may be sincere, this is virtually always a recipe for trouble. And if they have placed themselves in ministry leadership, that trouble will impact others, sometimes many others, beyond themselves.

Just in the last few weeks in Birmingham, Alabama, Matt Pitt, founder of a high-profile ministry called “The Basement,” was arrested for impersonating a police officer – for the second time. One of the things that jumped out at me as I read the accounts was that he founded the ministry in his parents’ basement less than a year after a conversion experience.

Let me just say it, if you were converted less than a year ago, you’re not qualified to be in ministry leadership. The Apostle Paul is clear when laying out qualifications for elders in the church: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (I Timothy 3:6). And if you’re not qualified to serve as a leader in Christ’s church, you’re definitely not qualified to strike out on your own and start a ministry.

By most accounts, there were approximately five years between the Apostle Paul’s conversion and the start of his first missionary journey. Of course, he was not a hermit during that time, we see him preaching occasionally and, most importantly, interacting with established church leaders such as James, Barnabas and Peter. If Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ was not enough for him to jump right into ministry leadership then whatever experience you or I have had is not likely to be either.

So what should a new convert do? Take time, a lot of time, learning at the feet of those who’ve gone before you. Join a Bible believing and teaching local church, read books, listen to sermons, participate in Bible studies, enter in to one-on-one discipling relationships. But, until you have several years of these things under your belt – don’t start a ministry. And even when you do have several years of those things under your belt in most cases you still should not start a ministry but that’s a topic for another post.

A Southern Baptist Decline?

A Southern Baptist Decline?

One of the big stories out of this week’s Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Houston is that the denomination is facing a decline. Statistics, which tend to be the measure of all things in Baptist life, show that membership has declined by 0.98% and Baptisms had their second lowest year in the last fifty.

On the surface these are concerning statistics. However, there are other statistics, equally concerning, that generate far less hand-wringing.  Al Jackson pointed out two years ago that of the 16 million Southern Baptists on church membership rolls, some 10 million of them are nowhere to be found on any given Sunday.

Under such circumstances, is a reduction in members and baptisms really bad news? If such things represent people not being reached for Christ, certainly but if they represent a reduction of members in name only, then I’d call it progress, not decline. In fact, it’s possible that real progress would look like a membership decline several percentage points larger which would indicate the recovery  of meaningful church membership in the denomination. That would be progress indeed.