NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Personal holiness is among a minister’s greatest needs, David Platt said during a seminar on the “spiritual life of the minister” at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
“I know myself really well, and I know I’m not certainly always a model of strength in this issue we’re about to talk about,” Platt said. “So I’m just sharing this as one fellow struggler in the battle alongside you.”
Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and a graduate of New Orleans Seminary, presented six characteristics of spiritually healthy ministry leaders, gleaned from the story of Elijah in 1 and 2 Kings. The seminar, which followed a chapel sermon by Platt, was held in the seminary’s Martin Chapel with a capacity crowd in attendance.
First, ministry leaders must find strength “in the solitude of God’s presence,” Platt said. In 1 Kings 17, with turmoil in Israel demanding Elijah’s attention, God tells him to “depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.”
“I think this is cluing us in to a reality that we need not forget: The most important part of our lives and our ministries is the part no one else sees,” Platt said.
He shared an acrostic to guide daily praying — P.R.A.Y.
“P” stands for praising God. Platt said he keeps a computer nearby during his quiet time. As he prays, he types out his thoughts and prayers. He often listens to music, which he said helps guide his thoughts and shapes his praise. He also prays through Scripture.
“R” is for repentance. Being specific is important in confession and repentance, Platt said, recommending that believers write their prayers of repentance. “Repentance leads to rest in Christ,” he said.
“A” stands for asking.
“Ask for God’s glory. Ask for God’s gifts. Ask God for His grace, forgiveness of sins. Ask God for His guidance,” Platt said.
Balancing planned and spontaneous petitions is important in prayer, Platt said. He schedules prayer for his family, his church and himself because there are specific issues he wants to make subjects of regular intercession. He also visits OperationWorld.org, which provides a prayer guide for a different country each day and helps Christians pray for the entire world over a year.
“I think it’s wise to be intentional about intercession,” Platt said.
“Y” stands for yielding to God’s plan and purpose.
Platt noted that believers should pair praying with fasting.
“More than I want food, I want God. More than I need lunch, I need His Word, I need His power. More than I want my hunger to cease, I want His Kingdom to come,” Platt said.
Second, the will of ministry leaders must be “completely abandoned to the Word of God,” Platt said. He read through portions of 1 Kings 17-18, emphasizing every occurrence of “Word” in reference to the Word of God.
“It’s the Word of God that’s guiding, directing, leading everything that Elijah is doing,” Platt said during the May 1 seminar. “So just a simple reminder: This Word is all we’ve got when it comes to leading the church.”
Platt urged ministry students to have a daily pattern of reading the Bible. Once again, he offered an acrostic — R.E.A.P. — to guide Scripture reading. It stands for Read, Examine, Apply, Pray.
Scripture memorization should be an element of personal Bible study, Platt said. He dismissed the common excuse that memorizing Bible verses is too difficult.
“I think about that ‘Frozen’ soundtrack,” Platt said, evoking laughter. “People can memorize in our culture just fine.”
Third, leaders must “take risks for God’s great glory.” Platt pointed to Elijah’s opposition of the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 and the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6. Both events unfolded in such a way that only God could receive glory.
“When the people of Israel take the city of Jericho in Joshua 6, what you don’t see is all the Israelites going up to the trumpet players and telling them what an incredible job they did. ‘Ralph, I never heard you play that well. Harry, you hit the high C and it was awesome,'” Platt said. “No, you see people on their faces saying, ‘Only God could’ve done this.'”
Fourth, leaders always receive grace sufficient for their spiritual battles. In 1 Kings 19, following the defeat of the prophets of Baal, Jezebel vows to have Elijah killed. In fear and discouragement, Elijah runs for his life. How, after such a great victory, could Elijah so quickly be so discouraged? Again, Platt offered a personal testimony.
“Some of the greatest victories I’ve experienced in ministry have often been followed right on their heels with some of my greatest struggles in ministry. There’s something about ministry in the Kingdom that you can go from high to low just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.
When Elijah fled to the wilderness and experienced God’s provision, he learned “to treasure God over and above his plans to glorify God,” Platt said. “… Will you and I be satisfied in simply knowing God and doing what He has told us to do?”
Fifth, ministry leaders must leave a legacy for God’s glory among people they will never meet in this life. As Elijah’s earthly departure approached, he spent time visiting other spiritual leaders who would remain after he was gone.
“This is the essence of what disciple making is all about, right? The fruit of your life of ministry doesn’t stop with those who are right around you,” Platt said.
Sixth, ministry leaders must know that this world is not their home. Platt saw a challenge for living in how Elijah approached his departure to heaven.
“Knowing this world is not our home, let’s live so we will be found faithful on that day,” Platt said.
Frank Michael McCormack writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).