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Consider ‘beyond,’ Cotter tells Southwestern students

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Christians should look “beyond the borders” when searching for ministry opportunities, Sam Cotter insists.

Cotter, director of religious education for the Colorado Baptist General Convention, recently asked a Southwestern chapel audience to consider ministry outside of Texas and other places where Baptists have a strong presence, like La Junta, Colo., Butte, Mont., Scottsbluff, Neb., and Casper, Wyo.

He showed slides of Colorado’s snowcapped mountains, crystal blue lakes and crimson autumn aspens. “These are pictures of a mission field. They are of a place where literally millions are lost without Christ — but it is not an uncomfortable place to live.”

Cotter continued his message with nine questions for his audience to consider. “These are not rhetorical questions. You must answer them to yourself and to God before you step out to be a minister.”

1. Did God call you to minister, or are you simply looking for a job? “I’ve had people tell me they were in the ministry because they were good at it and it seemed like a good way to make a living. If you are in church service for any other reason than because you were called to serve, then you are a minister for the wrong reason.”

2. Is your ministry purpose statement the same as God’s statement for your life? Rick Warren asks this question in his best-seller The Purpose Driven Church, Cotter said. “Most of our ministry statements don’t appear to the world to be good management. They appear foolish. Still, God leads in a singular way. He’ll give you a purpose statement to match his purpose statement.”

3. Are you letting God put your life resume together, or are you using the latest resume software to make your credentials look more impressive? “The worst job I ever had and the one time I really felt out of God’s will was when I sent out a resume looking for work and accepted a job offered because of it,” Cotter stated. “I’m not saying don’t have a resume. What I am saying is get into a local church and go to work. Even if the church doesn’t pay, work as if they are. Just serve. Let God fill your resume with the experience of service to the Kingdom.”

4. Are you willing to go where God leads? Less than 3 percent of Coloradans are Baptists, Cotter explained. “It isn’t the same as somewhere like Mississippi, where 26 percent of the state claims Baptist affiliation. Coloradans are just as anxious to know how God works in their lives and how they can be saved. It’s the same everywhere.”

5. Can you become a generalist in this age of specialization? “Only a handful of people are strictly education ministers in Colorado — you have to have a team concept and you have to cross train. Remember I Corinthians 9:22, ‘I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means, I might save some.'”

6. Will you change from being an outsider to being an insider? “I grew up in Texas and served in Texas for many years before moving to Colorado. Yet when people ask me where I’m from, I tell them, ‘Denver.’ You must remove yourself from where you once were to where God has asked you to be. You have a great example in your president, Ken Hemphill. No sooner did he, a man from the East, come here than he was wearing boots and a cowboy hat. Follow his lesson and know that you do not carry your culture, you carry Christ.”

7. Is your husband or wife willing to answer ‘yes’ to all the above questions, too? “When a spouse is unwilling to stray too far from parents, or unwilling to leave the familiar culture, it spells doom for the ministry of the other. In order to preserve the marriage, the minister abandons God’s call and the work of the ministry.”

8. Do you understand that Christ gave his life for the church and not just for the professional religious leader? “A survey of salaries will show you’ll never get rich coming to minister in Colorado. We receive resumes from everywhere. The majority of them either have expected salaries which are far too high or listings that reveal they want to come for the skiing or fishing rather than the ministering and evangelizing. People will respond to Christ, but you have to be willing to do the work to make sure they get the opportunity to see their savior.”

9. Can you give your life to lift up Jesus? “When I was a child, we used to watch Flash Gordon. When the villain, Ming the Merciless, wanted his servants to haul Flash to the dungeon, all he did was move a finger. The servants were watching so closely, they saw that finger move and they knew what it meant. They were trained as servants and they were committed to their king. We should be so in tune with God’s will that we can follow his lead that well.”
Cotter concluded by noting Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”

“We — his disciples today — should be prepared to answer that question to all people. Proverbs 3:5-6 guides us: ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.'”

    About the Author

  • Bryan McAnally