The Ministry Cycle: A Framework for Gospel-Centered Influence

Had a great weekend…

This past Friday and Saturday, we put on an event at our church that we call RedLife. In an effort to better equip our body, we are periodically having a Friday night/Saturday morning clinic where folks can choose from one of three workshops to equip them in living out the Gospel more effectively.

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Our tagline is RedLife: Strategies for Intentional Living and I was able to present a workshop session titled The Ministry Cycle: A Framework for Gospel-Centered Influence. And what a blast I had being able to present this and see and hear the “Aha” moments that people were having.

This material comes from my boys at Pilgrimage and they were kind enough to allow me to use it and present it. And the more I thought about it, it seemed like the makings of a good blog post. And so here is a condensed version of the Ministry Cycle.

As a believer in the gospel, as a follower of Jesus, I want to know how I can initiate with others more effectively. How can I be more impactful in my day-to-day missional living? Perhaps you have had that same question.

If so, I think this post will help you.

If you have not read my earlier post on The Learning Cycle, it would be very helpful to read that first, as the Ministry Cycle’s framework is laid right over the top of the Learning Cycle. If you are already familiar with it, read on.

If we are going to have more effective ministry with others, it is going to demand three things:

  1. We must know how to build real and authentic relationship.
  2. We must be able to help people see what is true about themselves.
  3. We must be able to help them do something about it.

Relationships are never random with God. He is always proactive and never reactive. One reason we come alongside others and invest is so that we can be there in their time of deep questioning or pain and help them work to truthful conclusions.

Romans 8:28-29 tells us:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)

God’s agenda for all who are His children is that we look more and more like Jesus. Because of issues in our lives (i.e. sin), God must address these because they impede our looking like Jesus. And so God puts experiences in our lives. And the whole point of the pre-approved experience is that it is designed to address a need which then allows me to fulfill God’s purpose.

And it is God’s design that my relationships with others be so like the hands and feet of Jesus that it affords us the opportunity to jump into the pain of another life…and point them to hope. And this is true whether they are a believer or not.

For each of the three requirements above for effective ministry, there are things that I must do, and there are things that I must be. In other words, if I overflow me, rest assured I am going to mess up the relationship in some way.

God must work the learning cycle process in my own life so that what I overflow is Him. And so let’s discuss each of the “do’s” and each of the “be’s” and see if some new and fresh thought is created in how we love others.

Building authentic relationships

In order to have real relationships that have depth, I must make contact with others. In other words, I have to find ways to spend time with other people. Not to be overly simplistic, but that is how relationships begin.

And in order for contact to happen, I have to be selfless. I admit I like my time and I like doing things with my time that want to do. But God often calls me to reach out to spend time with another to bless them. And it demands that I am selfless.

As experiences bring tension to others in their lives, we want to be there at those moments because that is when people need community the most. Their lives are spinning and they often need another person to help make sense of things – to comfort them.

And to actually comfort another, it necessitates that I am vulnerable. We simply are not able to enter into the pain of another if I act as if life is always going great and I have zero issues that God is dealing with me about.

That just is not true. We all are broken. We all have needs. We all need help.

We need to learn how to share griefs and challenges with others and to others. Why? Because without vulnerability, there is no connection. A hurting individual wants to know where we have struggled through similar pain or frustrations. It is the way we get down into their pit instead of looking down over the edge at them.

It’s messy. But it is the way of love.

Helping them see what is true

As a person enters into the examination stage of the learning cycle, there might be some wrong thinking going on which leads to empty fruit. And it may mean that we have to step in and confront.

I know, I know, we get hung up on that word “confront” because we most likely have had someone in our life who confronted us in a I-am-more-righteous-than-you-and-I-MUST-point-this-out-in-your-life type of way.

But we are called to hold up the mirror of God’s word to each other – not our own opinions – in helping others see what is actually true in his or her life. Jesus talked about how fruit is used to assess the life of another:

You will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:16)

In order to confront, though, it demands that I be a learner myself, that God is working in me and holding up the mirror of truth to my own spiritual eyes.

What happens if this is not true? Well, what you get is the type of confrontation that makes you cringe. I call it dropping the “truth bomb” in another’s life and then running, leaving the other person to deal with the shrapnel.

As a side note, if you want to learn a process that is super effective in this area of confronting, review my post on OIC – Observe, Interpret, and Clarify and see if this adds some new tools to your confrontational toolbox.

As I come to conclusions in my own life about those things that I am struggling through and examining, I can sometimes feel “lost in the woods” and need someone to be a compass for me. In other words, I cannot find “true north” and feel as if I am wandering over the same set of trails.

If the person I am coming alongside needs that type of compass, I must do that for them, always pointing to what truth says. But if I am going to be a compass for another, it first means that I am first a believer, that I have confidence that the solutions and methods prescribed in scripture are true and work for me in my life and circumstances.

Without this, I am simply offering a product that I have never tried, but hear that it works.

Helping them do something

So, to recap, I build effective relationships so that there is a mutual speaking into the life of another. I invest in them; they invest in me. And at times where the other person is seeing life in a skewed manner, we must count it a privilege to help them view truth through the right lens. And once new viewing happens, new believing follows.

Now it is time to work to actual change.

Once another person sees the beauty of truth, they want it but often just do not know how to apply it to their situation. And that calls for us to counsel them, to give strategies and steps, that if followed, will lead to authentic change.

But counsel is shallow if we first are not doers, meaning we have to have our own stories of how God is applying His word to our situations. My life, and not the stories of another, are what is needed in allowing others to identify with us, see how truth transforms, and then move to how truth applies to them.

And finally, as we see people start to “get it,” application is happening, and truth is overcoming error, integration in a life begins to happen. And what a great thing that is, because it shows that truth is now becoming part of the fabric of who that person is and is interwoven now with new decisions.

This is authentic change.

And in this last stage, I act as a coach, shouting from the sidelines as they play out the game of their life. But to do great coaching means first that I have to be a grower myself, meaning that I have growth strategies and plans that I am using in my own life that are moving truths to my own truths. 

I have personalized them. I have made them my own.

In reviewing this process, I would offer a cautionary remark: don’t systematize this. Do not look at these as sequential linear steps, that once this step is done it will lead automatically to the next.

Why? Because life is messy. And sometimes we bounce back and forth between some of these steps because the Spirit of God has His own timing for when the light goes on in another.

Be patient, be loving. And see this cycle as a tool. But do not get all caught up in the “neat tool.” Tools are only as valuable as they are used. But what this can do for you is help you assess where people are at in their growth and know how intersect your life with theirs for maximum impact for the Kingdom.

After all, that is why we are here.

I’d love to hear from you — please leave a reply below if you have any thoughts to add to the conversation.

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