a personal refelction
This can feel like an enormous task, I so often feel totally inadequate as I step out to do this. I have a few thoughts to share that I have found really helpful when I step out. The first and most important one is: IT’S NOT ABOUT ME!
Ministry times are about individuals meeting with Jesus. A few years ago, I was in a meeting and the person leading the ministry time gave out a word about someone being ‘labelled’ in a negative way and that it had to do with a particular word. As soon as he said it, in my mind’s eye I saw the word ‘obnoxious’. I remember my mum telling me off as a little girl and saying, “don’t be so obnoxious”. (I have to say, I probably deserved the telling off and I don’t think my mum was trying to label me in a bad way). I recognised in that moment that I had taken that word on board and the Lord showed me how I saw myself like that – as someone who is obnoxious – in my mind, because I’m a words person, that was like being a ‘bad smell’. I shared this with a friend and she prayed with me. This started a whole chain of transformative engagements with Jesus – I know I live differently because of this.
The reason I’m telling this story is this – the person leading the ministry time had no idea about what was going on in me. I didn’t share it with the meeting and didn’t say anything to them. They did a great job in providing a safe space for me to meet with Jesus, receive healing from something that I didn’t even know I had been carrying and so become just a little bit freer, a little bit more whole. They were obedient in listening to the Lord and sharing what they heard and saw.
So, how do I go about leading a time like this? How do I prepare for it? Are there some guidelines?
This might feel like an obvious thing to say, but preparation begins in the unseen place. The place where I meet with Jesus – my journey with Him. How well am I able to hear the Lord for myself and others? I have started there. Praying for the meetings that I am going to be part of, journaling what I hear from the Lord and then watching to see what unfolds has helped me grow in confidence. I’ve been asking the Lord to help me hear him better, see more clearly what he is doing. I’m not as interested in leading prayer ministry as I am in growing in relationship with Jesus. The more I grow in my relationship with him, the more I catch his heart for others, the better I am able to participate in a ministry time and the better I am equipped to lead one.
For myself, the Lord often speaks through worship songs and scripture. As I spend time with the Lord, I often find that some lyrics or a verse come to mind. I am a ‘words’ person. Words are big for me – they have a landscape of meaning, whereas for other people, words are very clearly defined and their meaning has hard boundaries. I find that the Lord often takes me on a journey as I explore the words that have captured my attention. What captures yours? Is it words, music or are images, designs more prominent for you? Whatever it is, focus in on these and ask the Lord to give you more insight. I will often come to a meeting with a few words going around in my mind and I look to see what the Lord will do with them. I have two very different experiences in giving out words.
The first is a word for the meeting – it’s like the heartbeat of what the Lord wants to share with his people. Often it is not very specific but will have a focus – healing with regard to relationships for example and I so often find it is the key theme of the message that is given. Sometimes, it is very specific and is for a particular person or a couple of people. I then have two options – I share the word with the meeting and hope the people come forward, or I ask the Lord to show me the individuals that the word is for. I am focusing more on finding the individual – it’s scary, but good as I am learning to lean into Jesus more on this. There are also times when the things I feel I have heard are not relevant to the meeting at all. So, then I have a couple of questions that I ask myself – am I hearing something for me that I need to go away and ask the Lord about or did I just have too much coffee? There is a great deal of value in being able to recognise the difference!
If leading a ministry time is something you feel that the Lord is calling you into, then share it with someone you trust who is already doing it and ask them if you can ‘shadow’ them. Ask them what they are hearing, seeing and sensing and debrief afterwards. There is an element of skill here – something that we can learn and refine. It might be as simple as a few words or phrases that they use that you can borrow or something more profound around their personal preparation which gives you greater insight into your own. We are each unique as individuals and so we need to discover what this looks like for us.
There are four values I always hold in mind as I come to a ministry time, that underpin everything we do:
- The cross of Jesus – there is no greater healing than salvation
- The word of God – this is the benchmark – is what is happening in line with scripture?
- The person and work of the Holy Spirit
- The dignity of the individual
So, what does this look like in practice? Here are some basic ground rules that are helpful:
Paul in I Cor 14:3 says
"But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort."
This needs to be the measure – is what is being prayed, said or shared strengthening, encouraging or comforting? If it doesn’t match up to this test, then we need to ask the Lord for more insight. It’s so important to remember that Jesus is for us – if nothing really ‘happens’ during a ministry time, but individuals go away sensing Jesus’ love for them in a deeper way, then we have shepherded well. Everything about a ‘ministry time’ should point to Jesus – it’s all about him.
Some practical pointers:
It’s helpful to give people who are unfamiliar with times like this some guidelines. It helps them to feel safe. So here are a few that I would encourage people to bear in mind. First of all, pray in pairs. This is so helpful – you can share with each other about what you think might be going on. It is a real confidence booster!
Then, when you go and stand with someone who is wanting to meet with the Lord
STAND – stand with them, infront of them. Be quick to get there – it’s a really vulnerable space to be standing on your own when you’ve come up in answer to some word given from the front.
STOP – wait to see/hear what the Lord wants to do – ask inside yourself – don’t kill it with words
LOOK - keep your eyes open, watch for signs of the Holy Spirit
LISTEN – be attentive to what the Lord is saying – what thoughts/words/verses go through your mind?
SPEAK – share any word. Be brief. Then pray. Jesus did not use long wordy prayers
In leading a time like this we are being watchmen and shepherds. We are looking for what the Lord is doing and where he is leading, and we are encouraging people to engage with that whilst providing a safe place for them to meet with him. This sometimes means asking people to be quiet – to allow everyone to focus. Finally, it’s really good to ask for testimonies. If you have been praying for someone, it’s always good to ask them what the Lord showed them or what they felt. For many, this might be the first time they have received prayer and there is such value in hearing yourself speak out what you have heard in your spirit or felt. If they are feeling bold, encourage them to share it with everyone else. There is nothing more exciting or encouraging than to see Jesus meeting with his people.