Embrace the beauty of the biblical pattern for women’s ministry! It may be less complicated, more attainable, and far different than you envision. Scripture outlines ministry preparation without utilizing pop-culture laden methods, social media techniques, or entertainment-based Bible studies popular today. In fact, God’s Word proves that He often chooses the least impressive vessels to deliver His most important messages. Jesus is looking for yielded vessels with which to reach out to other young women. Could it be you? Listen as Leslie Ludy shares how you, too, can have an effective ministry.
Leslie Ludy: Hi everyone, this is Leslie Ludy, host of the Set Apart Girl Podcast: Biblical Encouragement for Women of All Ages.
Today we are going to be talking about how to have an effective ministry. Now, maybe you’re not in full-time Christian ministry, but the reality is that when we give our lives to Jesus Christ, we are automatically enlisted as soldiers of the Cross. And every one of us is called to ministry – to go into the world and preach the Gospel, whether that means reaching one or reaching thousands. Maybe you’re unsure where to even begin when it comes to sharing the truth of Christ with the world around you. So today we’re going to talk about some of the most important principles that God has taught me about what it means to have an effective ministry that truly brings glory to His name.
Starting an Effective Ministry
Leslie Ludy: I’d like to start by telling you the story of my first speaking event. I was invited when I was about 17 years old to speak at a local church youth group. It was a mother-daughter tea and it was a purity tea so they were going to be talking all about relationships and purity. They wanted me to come and share my story of how God had really gotten a hold of this area of my life. God had challenged me to leave the shallow dating scene and to trust Him to write my love story – and to live in a deeper level of purity than what I had been previously. One of the moms was excited to have me share and wanted me to speak for about 30 minutes. So I prepared this whole message and my testimony, and then a day before the event somebody called me and said, “You know there’s been some questions about whether the moms really want you to share your story to the girls. So they’ve reduced your time from 30 minutes down to four minutes.”
And I remember being so taken aback by that and so baffled because my thought had been, here’s my big chance, here’s my opportunity to have a thirty-minute speaking event at this local church youth group, and get my ministry and my message out there. And now those thirty minutes had been reduced to four minutes. There were some moms that didn’t even want me to speak because they were afraid that my message would be to radical for their daughters to hear. They wanted their daughters to be dating around, going to prom, and living that “normal” high school life. So they didn’t want me to come in with a different message and there were some inner battles over whether I should speak or not, so it got reduced to four minutes.
I considered calling up and just cancelling the event because I thought if no one wants to hear me, then I don’t want to share my story. And how am I supposed to say anything in four minutes? But I prayed about it, and I really felt that God was saying, “Use those four minutes for My glory. Just get completely out of the way. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of you, and just speak truth within those four minutes.” So I memorized everything that I wanted to say. I cut it down to where it would fit in exactly four minutes, and I actually memorized my speech.
And as I was waiting for my turn to speak at this mother-daughter tea, the woman before me got up and spoke a completely opposite message of what I was about to share. I was so horrified because of what she was telling the girls. She was basically telling them that it was okay to live in impurity, and live on the very edge of that fence, and that God would always provide a way out at the last minute before they fully compromised. I completely disagreed with what she was saying, but I was more horrified about the fact that I was about to get up there and say the complete opposite of what she had just said, and I didn’t know how that would be received. In that moment God was speaking to my heart saying, “You need to just get out of the way and not worry about what anyone thinks of you. This is not about you. This is about Me, and My glory.”
So I got up there with much fear and trembling, with shaking knees and trembling hands, and in those four minutes I shared what God had laid on my heart to share. It was really interesting because while the woman had been speaking the girls hadn’t been paying very close attention. But when I got up without any concern about what people thought of me, or trying to be liked and approved by the girls – but just spoke the truth – they were actually listening and paying attention. Afterwards, though, a lot of the women were frustrated with me. They didn’t like what I had to say, and I was never invited to speak at that church again.
Looking back, people ask me, ”How did you get started as a speaker to women?” Well, I guess you could say that was the day that it started, and it certainly would not have been considered a successful speaking event — when I had four measly minutes to share what was on my heart, and most of the people who invited me in didn’t even like what I had to say, and I never got invited back. But for me that was a defining moment that would basically define the rest of my ministry; choosing to stand on the side of truth rather than pander after human approval. And that has been the path that God has kept me on all throughout my ministry years. There was nothing glamorous or brilliant about what I did. It was just a simple step of obedience when I was willing to humble myself and say, “Lord, I’m getting out of the way here. It doesn’t matter what they think of me, but I want to focus on bringing glory to Your name.”
I learned those three key truths about ministry that day, and I’ve never forgotten them. And they have shaped my entire ministry journey. So if you’re preparing for any kind of ministry, or you’re engaged in any kind of Christian ministry — whether it’s just witnessing to someone in your life, or speaking, teaching, counseling, evangelizing, or writing — I really believe that these three principles are the most important truths that you need to know.
Key No. 1 – Get Out of the Way
Leslie Ludy: The first one is to get out of the way, and that was what God was speaking to me so clearly on that day. Leslie, this is not about you. This is not your big moment to shine and be seen. This is about you getting out of the way, so that I can be seen.
The common approach when you’re thinking about having an effective ministry is you oftentimes think, I need to write an impressive bio. I need to build an impressive website. I need to get a lot of Facebook followers. That’s the strategy that a lot of us take into ministry today, thinking that unless people are really impressed with us we really can’t reach them for Christ.
In my teen years I wanted to be a Christian singer/songwriter, and I remember the advice that I got from older Christian leaders in my life and other Christian musicians. They said, “You have to shamelessly self-promote. You have to look for ways to get people to notice you and be impressed with you. And you have to take your demo album, put it in people’s faces, and get photos of yourself and put them everywhere. And that was the advice that I got. And yet, as I went to the Word of God I began to realize that His criteria for building an effective ministry; it’s not based on human strength, intelligence, talent, or popularity. In fact, if you look at the Bible and His pattern, you’ll see that He often selects the least impressive vessels to deliver His most important messages.
So just think about this. Moses was a forgotten exile in the desert before he was chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. David, the king, the most mighty king in all of Israel was a disregarded shepherd boy. He wasn’t even invited to the battle where he slew Goliath. He just came to deliver food and was completely disregarded by his brothers. Most of the apostles were uneducated fishermen that people didn’t even take seriously at first. And think about even how Jesus came to this earth. He didn’t come as a regal king. He came as a lowly baby born into a poor carpenter’s family with a manger as His crib, and a dirty barn as His nursery.
I love the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, where Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”
And then later Paul summarizes God’s pattern for being an effective witness for Christ. He says, “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus…Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:28-31).
So that shows us that if we are leaning on our own human personality, ability, talent, or strength to reach others for Christ, then very likely we are getting in God’s way. And also when we use ministry as a way to draw people to ourselves, that means we’re stealing the glory that belongs to God alone.
John the Baptist set an incredible example when he said, “He,” meaning Jesus, “must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). And that has been a theme that God has challenged me with time and time again, “Leslie, get out of the way. You must decrease – self must not be seen. I must be seen through your life.”
It doesn’t mean that God can’t use our unique gifts, but usually He will only do so when they are completely yielded and surrendered to Him. As I look back over the past 20 years of ministry, it has not been when I felt the most impressive by human standards that I made the biggest impact. But it’s been when I felt that I’m at my weakest – and I’m truly able to get out of the way and not steal glory that belongs to God – that Jesus could truly be seen through my life and through my words.
So when you’re in a conversation with someone, or you’re speaking, or you’re doing anything where people are noticing you, think about this: it really doesn’t matter whether they walk away from that conversation or that encounter remembering you, or seeing something unique about you, or even remembering your name. The thing that matters the most is, did they see Jesus? Did they encounter His love? His life? His nature? That is what every effective minister must do. Get out of the way, so that He can be seen.
Key No. 2 — Prepare for Battle
Leslie Ludy: The second most important principle I could tell you about having an effective ministry is being prepared for a battle. I remember hearing a well-known Christian leader say, “Don’t go into Christian ministry unless you are totally, 100% sure that it is God calling you to do this, and you’re not just doing it because you think it looks fun or glamorous: don’t go into Christian ministry unless you are prepared for a major battle.” I will definitely agree with that statement.
Christian ministry should not be glamorized or romanticized. If I look back over the last 10, 15, or 20 years, I can say it’s been amazing and it’s been fulfilling, but it has been very, very difficult. Stepping out in Christian ministry is very much like taking a baseball bat and hitting a hornet nest, and if you are not armed with the armor of God then you’ll be hit by the enemy and not even know what has hit you. And I will say that in the first five or six years of ministry, that was my experience. I was being pummeled by the enemy, completely unready and unprepared for the battleground that I had stepped into, and I wasn’t wearing the full armor of God.
If you are doing any kind of valuable work for the Kingdom of God — even if it’s just witnessing to a friend in your life — you need to realize that it’s not going to be fun, comfortable, or easy. All we need to do is look at the lives of the prophets, or the apostles, or Christian heroes from history to realize that this narrow path of Christian ministry, of sharing the Gospel with the world, of bringing truth in the midst of lies is difficult, and hard, and it may cost us everything. So we should not expect a journey that’s filled with human praise and earthly rewards. I think we have it so backwards in modern American Christian ministry where we expect human praise and earthly rewards for speaking truth as opposed to what Jesus says.
He says, “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” That’s in John 15:19, and He says, “Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.” That’s in Luke 6:22. And then in 2 Timothy 3:12, it says, “…all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” You need to understand that as you step out in any kind of ministry the enemy will hit you hard. So don’t make the mistake of going into ministry preparing for a picnic instead of for a battlefield.
Take some time to study what Scripture says about spiritual warfare and standing strong against the enemy. Some of my favorite verses to study are: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, Ephesians 6:10-17, James 4:7, and 1 John 4:4. There’s some great messages online you can listen to: Authority and Resisting by Eric, my husband. They’re available at www.ellerslie.com for free download. I love The Snake Story by Otto Koning that you can get online. And then our book Wrestling Prayer, which you can get at www.ellerslie.com is also a great resource on spiritual warfare.
But the bottom line is this — make sure that you don’t step into the battleground of ministry unless you are clinging tightly to your great and mighty Shepherd, because it is only He that can equip you to win the victory. And learn how to put on the full armor of God.
Key No. 3 — Offer Your Fishes and Loaves
Leslie Ludy: The third principle that I want to share with you about having an effective ministry is to offer your fishes and loaves. We oftentimes look at our lives and think, What do I really have to offer? I don’t have a lot of talent. I don’t have a lot of ability. I don’t have a lot of money. How can I possibly make an impact?
I know when God first began calling me to speak and to communicate truth I felt very, very weak and insignificant. Most people are surprised to realize that public speaking is not something that I’m naturally gifted at, and it’s not something I naturally enjoy doing. It’s something that I’ve had to be built by God and equipped by God to do. It is certainly not something that I was naturally born with.
I love the story of Gladys Aylward, who was a simple parlor maid and had a burden for China. She had no money, no missionary training, no contacts in China. She didn’t even know how she could get there, because the only way to get there would mean crossing over the middle of a war. And yet, she could not get rid of the burden on her heart that she was called to go there and evangelize and share the Gospel.
This is an excerpt from the book, Gladys Aylward: The Small Woman. One day when she was praying, she said this, “I put my Bible on the bed, beside it my copy of Daily Light, and, at the side of that, all the money that I had—[a small handful of coins]. What a ridiculous little collection it seemed, but I said simply, ‘Oh God, here’s the Bible about which I long to tell others, here’s my Daily Light that every day will give me a new promise, and here is [all the money I have]. If you want me, I am ready to go to China with these.”
It was with that simple offering of a few fishes and loaves that God used Gladys’s life to change the world, to change the country of China. Near the end of her life she told a group of believers this, “If God has called you to China or any other place and you are sure in your own heart, then let nothing deter you … remember it is God who has called you and it is the same as when He called Moses or Samuel.”
That story has been such an encouragement to me over my years in ministry when I thought I really have very little to offer. Lord, take these fishes and these loaves and somehow multiply them for Your glory. I really believe that oftentimes it’s when we only have fishes and loaves to offer that He works most mightily through our lives.
Leslie Ludy: Here are some final thoughts I want to share about having an effective ministry: don’t overcomplicate the process, just take one step of obedience at a time knowing that He will back you up. He will equip you as you surrender to Him. And make your ministry all about Him, instead of all about you. Resist that temptation to make it all about what the world thinks of you, and how impressive you can look to other people. Make it your goal to point their eyes to Jesus Christ. Offer Him your loaves and your fishes with an expectant heart, and then you can watch in wonder as He does His mighty works through you!
Thank you for listening today! If you’ve enjoyed this content visit www.setapart.org for more resources on this subject. I pray you have a blessed and Christ-focused week!
Wrestling Prayer by Eric and Leslie Ludy is available in our online store.