A philosophy of ministry is essential for every church and every individual. A properly focused philosophy should help direct people toward having an effective ministry which will impact the world for Christ.

Over the next few weeks I plan on exploring key areas of ministry and their effect on the great commission (Matthew 28:19). These areas include, but are not exclusively limited to: leadership; success; outreach; education; worship; and separation.

To begin this study, the following passage I believe expresses ministry best:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

The goal of ministry rests in this passage; that is, to educate others to love God. God must come first in a believer’s life, which is declared absolutely by the imperative statements: with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (v. 5). All other commands of God flow from this passage (cf. Deut 11:1; 30:6); for walking in the ways of the Lord properly displays love. It is for this reason why Christ declares this the first and greatest commandment (Matt 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). The apostle John stresses the importance of this command: “And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 John 3:19). The idea behind assuring our hearts carries the notion of complete belief to the point of obeying someone due to complete trust placed in that person. Therefore, the idea John presents before his readers is stated as a reaffirmation of Deuteronomy: believers know that they are of the truth due to the fact that they have placed the totality of their hearts under the complete obedience of Christ.

Pertaining to the study at hand, the foundation and implementation of completely loving God begins with the family: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house” (v. 7a). For a ministry to remain biblically successful, a firm foundation rooted in loving God must be established at the family level. Furthermore, the responsibility of this task lies primarily on the father (see Deut 29; Prov 4; Eph 6:4; et al.). For that reason, the father must serve as an example for his children to follow. This principle affects us on an individual level as well, for a woman should wait for a Godly minded husband and the man needs to properly understand God’s love and display it.

Additionally, the focus of worship in this passage pertains not to the where but the how; it is to be “internalized, integrated, and incorporated in one’s very being.” Worship of God begins here; only a love of God which is properly centered can provide a true and fulfilling spiritual experience. Unfortunately, the culture of today is aesthetically oriented; there is a need to feel spiritual. The problem with appealing to this desire is that in the end it is not God-centered. Now this is not to say that there is no experiential or emotional aspect to experiencing Christ in one’s life; for there clearly is. However, the need to want to be emotionally led is rooted in self-centeredness; the want to experience Christ in today’s society comes from the fact that Christ no longer exists in the daily mindset of the general populous. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 serves as the underlying foundation for a successful biblically minded ministry. Christians today’s churches must properly direct those placed under their care toward true and fulfilling worship in Christ; this must happen at all levels of ministry, from the pastor down to the average layman at their place of employment.

While I am only scratching the surface of the passage above, these principles are to run deep into our personal lives and our spiritual lives. As always, I invite discussion.

C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch note that the demand of love excludes all half-heartedness (Commentary on the Old Testament, trans. James Martin, LSS [Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996], 1:884ff.). They continue explaining the importance of the heart as being the center of emotions, the soul as the center of personality, and strength as the culmination of both body and soul; i.e. with all ones’ entirety, for love is to pervade and direct a believer’s life.

Daniel I. Block contends that this passage should serve as a reminder to Christians that from the beginning the faith of Israel was to focus on internal matters and not on external performance (“How Many Is God? An Investigation Into The Meaning Of Deuteronomy 6:4-5,” JETS 47 [June 2004], p. 204).

While Wilber Ellsworth primarily focuses on the “seeker-sensitive” movement and how it has ruined true Christian worship, he properly identifies the real problem in our culture; i.e. an aesthetically driven culture. (“Classical Worship for Today: The Fuel of Hospitable Worship,” RefRev 13 [Fall 2004], p. 158). Aesthetics, and the need to be immersed in a spiritual experience, has significantly downplayed the importance of the gospel message. It is not the need to feel our Lord and Savior that is important, but actually having a personal relationship with Him. As Ellsworth sadly notes, “our culture is far removed from [these] values and joys.”

The effects of a converted life are easily seen and as a believer matures a willingness to obey and follow Christ are evident by the life they choose to life. This aspect of Christianity is highly experiential and emotional; if it were not, there would be no change. It is the Spirit which infiltrates one’s heart and convicts them of sin in their lives. Therefore, Christianity can only be described as experiential; for conversion does bring about change.