Here are five principles of catalytic ministry we are learning from our work at Global City Mission Initiative:
1. Don’t do things for people that they can do for themselves. Too often, especially in evangelism and church planting, we give into the temptation to be the primary “doer” in every aspect of church. When we are the primary pastoring figure, the primary teacher, the primary leader, the primary ____________, then not only are we paternalistic towards those we minister to, but we also rob new disciples of participating in and learning the ministry of the church. We inhibit maturation and set ourselves up for stagnation and burnout. The work of the catalyst is about empowering others to reproduce every reproducible aspect of the life of the church. Successful catalysts are constantly training and raising up others to replace themselves.
2. Recognize that the resources are in the harvest.
It is easy to act as if the fruitfulness of our ministry is entirely dependant upon our own abilities and knowledge. This is not true and, in practice, kills catalytic work. Mature catalysts understand that the necessary reactants are already in place and that our job is to initiate and unleash this unused potential. Catalysts are at their best when they are coaching others and empowering disciples to embrace their abilities. Good catalysts work themselves out of positions of authority as they raise up others to do the work themselves.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask difficult things of others.
There is nothing easy about following Jesus. When we are afraid to ask hard things of disciples, we foster immaturity and prevent healthy fruit from growing. Catalytic workers are not afraid to ask difficult things of disciples; things like: maturity, self-feeding, disciple-making, leadership, obedience to scripture, and one-another ministry. Jesus wasn’t afraid to ask his disciples to step out in faith and to work at the limits of their maturity. If we wish to be catalytic disciple-makers we shouldn’t be either.
4. Recognize that we don’t control the outcome.
The most toxic thing catalysts can do in ministry is to try and control the end results of their ministry. Empowering others will always be at odds with control, and when we are more concerned with “successful” outcomes than with raising up workers from the harvest then we have ceased to emulate Jesus in our ministry. Often it is more important that we let disciples take charge than it is that we ensure our ideal end result. If failure is not a tolerable outcome, then we are not emotionally or spiritually prepared for the difficult work of discipling others. The outcome of Kingdom work is always in God’s hands, let’s act like we believe it by releasing others into ministry.
Perhaps the most difficult thing about catalytic work is that we, as the “professional ministers,” don’t stay at the center of the reaction. We are called to unleash disciples and to foster multi-generational ministry. When we have reproduced and replaced ourselves, it is time for us to leave. What this means is that many of the people in churches I’ve planted don’t know me. I’m not there anymore. Once catalysts have raised up leaders in a church, it is time for us to allow the reaction to continue without us. Often, when we try to remain at the center of the reaction, it is because we desire a place where we feel fulfilled and needed. And this seems a good time for a confession: it is difficult to walk away from ministry which we have worked hard to initiate and help grow. But if we want to see healthy and mature disciples form then we must recognize the necessity of leaving.
I challenge you this week to reflect on how you can be more catalytic in discipling others. And you can listen to our podcast on this same topic here.
By S.B. in NYC