Is It Time for a Ministry Inspection?

The home repair industry recommends an annual building inspection. You may wonder whether once a year is really necessary, but professionals contend that regular inspections will uncover minor issues before they become major. 

Consider: without careful scrutiny of the substructure, you won’t know if termites are eating their way through the wood or if cracks in the foundation are the reason for squeaky floors and sticking doors. If moisture from a leaky pipe goes undetected it can cause extensive damage. Better to deal with the small stuff now rather than drown in catastrophic repairs later!

Wise servants, the same principle can be applied to ministry. Maybe you’ve never taken a step back to honestly evaluate your ministry until now. Has your mission shifted? Has your heart drifted? Before we leap headlong into 2023, will you pause with me for a ministry inspection? 

Rebuilding after Disrepair

To be honest, many of us are still struggling to rebound after a ministry shutdown in 2020. We’ve tried rebooting the same old programs that were successful in the past only to discover they aren’t working now. Some of us are too fatigued to be innovative. Some of our churches have radically changed. Everything feels harder. Life has changed; ministry has changed, and there’s no going back.

But that’s not necessarily bad. I’ve said it before: a ministry interruption is a gift from God. Fellow leader, hear me—God can breathe new life into your ministry. He is the God who makes all things new. Take a page from Paul’s songbook of joy to the Philippians, “Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13–14).

We don’t know what this year will hold, but we can take prudent steps to prepare our ministries to withstand the future. Let’s begin with the foundation.

Faulty Ministry Foundations

In construction, laying the proper foundation is the most crucial phase. There are ministries that stand the test of time (Revive Our Hearts is over twenty years strong!), and there are others that crumble. Taking a closer look at the foundation will expose whether the structure is faulty or stable. 

A ministry with a weak infrastructure will not endure the test of time nor give God the glory He is due. In our culture, it seems anyone (some with serious character flaws) can launch a “ministry” with impure motives. Is it about self or is it about the gospel? 

When you carefully examine its underpinnings, a ministry may be more about the person in front of the camera or pictured on the book cover than the person of Jesus Christ. 

We each have the choice to build a monument to ourselves or a temple for Jesus.

Even well-meaning friends can push us to make a name for ourselves instead of making much of the name of Christ. I’m thankful for the friends I know in ministry who’ve learned to combat this cultural pressure and who can show us how to resist worldly ways that stroke our egos, making subtle overtures that ministry is all about us. 

For most of us, God calls us to a Word-driven, Spirit-infused, Christ-exalting ministry with a small footprint, and yet, how many of us are striving to build a ministry empire? Bigger isn’t necessarily better for the kingdom, even if we struggle to truly believe it’s true. First Corinthians 3:14 assures us that builders following God’s architectural blueprints—not their own—will receive heavenly rewards.

Repetition of the phrase “not to us” in Psalm 115:1 emphasizes how foolish it is to think God needs you and me to accomplish (rather than invite us into) His sovereign work, 

Not to us, LORD, not to us, 
but to your name give glory 
because of your faithful love, because of your truth.

A fruitful ministry with longevity is all about Jesus and His gospel truth. Only a ministry foundation built on the solid rock of Christ will last (1 Cor. 3:11). 

Worthy Building Materials

In 1 Corinthians 3, ministry workers are admonished to not only be careful how they build but also to be wise concerning the materials they use.

If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire. (vv. 12–15)

In this passage, Paul described two different types of building materials. The first mentioned is gold, silver, and precious stones, which suggest materials worthy of God, like the ones used to construct His temple. 

  • Gold
    I like to equate building with gold as the pure Word of God. Is the Word central to all we do? Does Scripture inform our decisions? Is there a biblical reason for why we do what we do? Do we faithfully adhere to all of Scripture?

  • Silver
    When we build with silver, it’s equivalent to prayer, which saturates and fuels what we do. It’s through prayer that we learn God’s priorities for ministry and discern which great ideas aren’t a part of His agenda. Bathing ministry in prayer moves the outcome from human results based on our giftedness and hard work to the supernatural realm propelled by God’s infinite resources and divine power. 

  • Precious Stones
    I think of “building with precious stones” as leaders pouring into people and developing teams to share the workload. Have you contemplated the privilege we have to invest in others and raise up a new generation of ministry workers? Laboring side-by-side with God’s people takes the focus and pressure off one individual. The collective precious stones build community and hold the ministry together when individuals come and go. Crafting with precious stones rather than building a ministry as a one-woman show keeps leaders from becoming isolated and dangerously disjointed from the Body of Christ. 

Faulty Building Materials

Conversely, wood, hay, and straw illustrate building materials that God will not accept and will ultimately be burned up by fire (v. 13). Truthfully, this verse disturbs me. My sincere prayer is for God to show me, and you, the quality of our materials so we won’t have regrets later. Here are some alarming signs:

  • Accomplishing work without needing to ask God to intervene supernaturally to do the impossible.
  • Settling for work results that are easily produced from human giftedness and ingenuity.
  • Establishing a pattern of squeezing out healthy sleep in order to work more.
  • Fearing change and the reaction of people to change which hinders the ability to adapt to emerging needs.
  • An insatiable desire for something new that displaces the ministry core of the Word and prayer. 
  • Saying yes to every ministry opportunity without turning first to God.

I’m certain that I’ve done many things in ministry that I wasn’t called to or that was not appointed by God. How about you? One day when we look back on that work, we’ll be sorry we wasted our time because it won’t matter in light of eternity. Because of the Lord’s immense grace, He can still produce fruit from it, but ultimately we are robbed of God’s perfect plan. Our “yes,” which should have been “no,” may have cheated someone else of having the opportunity to serve or distracted us from more critical work.

A Tool for Rebuilding

Now that we’ve inspected the foundation and building materials, we can take the next step before nailing down the coming twelve months of ministry activity. Will you honestly analyze what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and be willing to obey whatever the Lord shows you? Start by prayerfully making a list of every activity and study, and then use the following questions for evaluation. 

  • How is this fulfilling our mission and advancing the gospel?
  • Does this engage women’s heads, hearts, and hands?
  • Are women being equipped with the truth about womanhood? 
  • Does the way we structure this study or event cultivate a life-giving community? 
  • Are we saturating this in prayer?
  • Is this what the people we lead need or is it what they crave
  • Should this be adapted or revised in order to be more effective?
  • Has this fulfilled its purpose and thus no longer needed?
  • If we only offer a few things, what is non-negotiable?

As God confirms your inspection results, use the information to build a strategy for the future. Take time to map out the training, resources, and leadership needs that are required to meet the new objectives. 

Ready to Repair? 

If you’re ready to fine-tune and rebuild your ministry, remove the termite-infested wood. Repair the foundation cracks. Replace the leaky pipes. Gather your team, pray, and chart your path forward. Don’t be in a hurry. Let the Spirit lead according to His timetable. You’re invited to print this article and sit with it in prayer for an extended period.

Only what we build that comes from Him, is done through Him, and is done for Him will endure. Only when Jesus, the chief cornerstone, is the ministry foundation will eternity reveal that it truly mattered. When our ministries are Word-centered and bathed in prayer, God doesn’t promise to make it bigger. But you can be assured it will be pleasing to the Lord because it originates from Him and is executed in His way and in His strength. Gold. Silver. Precious stones.

I’d love the chance to engage with you and hear your thoughts on building a ministry on the Rock of Jesus Christ and for His glory. You can connect with me in the Revive Our Hearts Women’s Ministry Leader Group on Facebook.

About the Author

Leslie Bennett

Leslie Bennett has led Women’s Ministry in two local churches, and serves on the Revive Our Hearts ministry team. She connects with women’s leaders around the world in the Revive Our Hearts Leader Facebook Group and as host of online training events. A teacher at heart, she is devoted to training and discipling the next generation to treasure Christ above all. Leslie and her husband Mac live in S.C. where she loves spending time with family, and admiring Lowcountry sunsets.