Appropriate validation in the context of ministry can be a challenging road to walk. Ultimately our only necessary validator is God, and yet with an elder board or advisory board holding a leader accountable, a vocational ministry can require justification or measurement.
When it comes to personal spiritual growth I’ve learned to seek out a variety of voices. Whether my education comes from books, sermons via online streaming, attending conferences, or attending church one thing links these teachers together, my desire to learn about God from them. One of the things that draw me to them is the number of other people learning from them in addition to me. I like to think that in this “chicken and egg” scenario the reason so many people are listening to certain preachers or reading certain authors is that their words are so true and Spirit-filled. I like to think I’ve chosen to listen to certain theologians based on their beliefs and teaching, not their social media following…but it is hard to ignore the fact that somewhere along the lines our society decided a large following validated someone’s words.
For me accepting a speaker’s words or an author’s presentation is not limited to the opinion of the masses, but at the same time, those with large crowds are more likely to get my attention first. It is because of this trend of response in my own life that the measure for valid ministry has, unfortunately, had attendance attached to it.
On the practical side, numbers are necessary to know how much food to buy for a meeting, how many retreat spots to reserve, and how many resources to purchase. There is buying power in numbers with discounts for groups. Still, human practicality only carries us so far. God calls us to the least of these, He calls us to do what no one else is eager to do and because of that, validity cannot always be found in numbers.
Several months ago the Lord seized ahold of my heart in a new way. While reading Hosea these verses stirred my emotions in an unexpected way.
I write out my revelation for them in detail
and they pretend they can’t read it.
They offer sacrifices to me
and then they feast on the meat.
God is not pleased!
I’m fed up—I’ll keep remembering their guilt.
I’ll punish their sins
and send them back to Egypt.
Israel has forgotten his Maker
and gotten busy making palaces.
Judah has gone in for a lot of fortress cities.
I’m sending fire on their cities
to burn down their fortifications.”
As I reflected on Hosea I realized that there were large areas of sacrifice in my life God was not taking delight in and by extension I was night delighting in.
1 Samuel 15:21-23 says,
Saul defended himself. “What are you talking about? I did obey God. I did the job God set for me. I brought in King Agag and destroyed the Amalekites under the terms of the holy ban. So the soldiers saved back a few choice sheep and cattle from the holy ban for sacrifice to God at Gilgal—what’s wrong with that?”
22-23 Then Samuel said,
Do you think all God wants are sacrifices—
empty rituals just for show?
He wants you to listen to him!
Plain listening is the thing,
not staging a lavish religious production.
Not doing what God tells you
is far worse than fooling around in the occult.
Getting self-important around God
is far worse than making deals with your dead ancestors.
Because you said No to God’s command,
he says No to your kingship.