Richard Ray: Serve the Lord, not your ministry

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There is one thing that I have learned when it comes to serving the Lord, especially as a pastor: You must learn to follow instructions.

richard ray130Richard RayWith Christmas just around the corner, many children will receive gifts that require assembly. Instructions of any kind can be frustrating, because putting things together takes focus and persistence. You have to read the instructions, and you have to follow their guidelines if you want the gift to look like the picture on the box. However, many will take a short cut and lose their cool, and then the gift will end up assembled the wrong way, and the child never will get to enjoy the fullness of the gift.

Often, gifts are assembled improperly, not because we failed to understand the instructions, but because we failed to follow the instructions. So often in the ministry, we get so busy doing the work of the ministry that we get away from the instructions. We begin to do things on our own, in our own way, because we just want to get them accomplished. We fail to serve the Lord and begin to serve the ministry.

Joshua put it best when he said: “But if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Joshua is telling us we need to decide whom we will serve. Will we serve the sports we love, the money we make, the cars we drive or the home we live in? Will we serve the places we go, the vacations we take or maybe the ministry we serve? Ministry can become an occupation, where we focus on numbers. The number of people attending, the amount of money you earn or would like to earn, or the number of visits that must be made or calls that have to be returned. What happens is we stop serving the Lord and start serving the ministry.

Joshua is reminding us we must pour our hearts into serving the Lord and follow the instructions he has laid out for us. Otherwise, the ministry never is assembled properly, and you never are able to experience the fullness of it.

texas baptist voices right120As ministers, we serve the Lord, not the ministry. The ministry is our calling for how we can express our love to him. We must learn to listen to our Lord intently with the understanding that every instruction he gives is to bring the lost to his saving grace and glory to his name. When Jesus was born in that manger in that town called Bethlehem, he was God’s gift to us. Jesus is the gift that matters, so serve him and love him in the calling he has given you.

May each of you have a Merry Christmas, remembering the gift of our Savior is why we serve him in the ministry he has called us.

Remember, God has called you to serve him, but God has not called you to serve alone. Let us be your advocate, your resource, and your prayer partner as you fulfill your calling. Until next time, please visit our website:

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Richard Ray is executive director of the Bivocational/Small Church Association and director of missions for the Tri-Rivers Baptist Area. You can reach him at

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