By Toby DeHay
It’s hard to believe my 20-year mark for serving in vocational ministry is coming up. Although I first felt the Lord’s call to vocational ministry early one Monday morning in 2001, it seems like it happened only yesterday.
Back then, our daughter was two, our son was only a few months old, and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It’s funny how time, experience, and a consistent walk with the Lord work together to shape one’s life.
During the past two decades, I’ve completed three degrees, have served in different ministry roles in three states, and have learned how to learn along the way. Each time I started a new role, it felt as if I were starting all over again—which just meant there was more to learn.
Twenty years of ministry can provide much fodder for advice while at the same time teaching that to achieve another 20 years, one must keep listening, learning, and teaching others (2 Timothy 2:2).
I haven’t arrived—and never will—but at the same time, I’ve found myself constantly sharing the following two essential ministry takeaways I’ve learned in two decades of service.
1. Study and practice biblical evangelism.
The Lord’s mandate to go to all peoples and make disciples applies to all believers (Matthew 28:18-20). Some Christians are gifted evangelists, but all are commanded to evangelize.
The church planters I work with have various issues to deal with, but a constant concern relates to their evangelistic habits and effectiveness. Pastors, church leaders, and church members all desire to see more baptisms and disciples, but that won’t happen without studying and practicing biblical evangelism.
Reader, do you feel adequately trained to share the good news of the gospel with those around you? Does your church provide yearly training?
Have you sought help in the form of participating in a local, state, or video/podcast training event? Do you and your church staff have a plan to teach and model biblical evangelism each week?
Do you or does your church set evangelistic goals each year? I once had a church member ask me when I was going to stop talking about evangelism. My response was, “I’ll stop whenever Jesus comes back or I die.”
We don’t know when either of those things is going to happen, so let’s share the good news with a lost and dying world while we still have time.
2. Learn about and practice biblical disciple-making.
Intentional disciple-making is making a comeback in churches today. Twenty years ago, when I began to learn about my call to vocational ministry, the only understanding of discipleship I had was related to the Sunday evening discipleship training hour.
When I think about it, I realize it had benefits: believers dove deeper into God’s Word in a personal and group setting, and the pastor was able to interact with a smaller group of believers.
But it also had limitations. It was often pastor-lead (simply another preaching point), lacked interaction between the discipler and the disciple, and didn’t have accountability built into the design of the program.
Pastors, churches, and other leaders are now building their disciple-making initiatives around specific needs. I’ve used a “leadership lab” method to train a group of 3-5 more mature believers to study theology, practical ministry, and to remain accountable in evangelizing and disciple-making.
I also love Robby Gallaty’s concept of D-Groups and personally use a one-on-one disciple-making method from Billy Hanks Jr.’s Operation Multiplication.
Pastor, planter, believer, how are you currently working to pour yourself into one or more believers?
Does your church have a strategy to disciple members and those God is bringing into your flock as new Christians?
How seriously are we taking the mandate of our Lord from Matthew 28:18-20?
I’m looking forward to the lessons God will teach me over the next 20 years. But what I continue to strive for is to encourage believers in evangelism and disciple-making.
Toby serves the Kentucky Baptist Convention as a Church Planting and Development Associate. He and his wife have two children and are currently well on their way to visiting all Major League baseball parks.