The Garden of Your Soul

In the last post, I touched on the need for those in pastoral ministry to resist the lone ranger approach. I highlighted an unfortunate tradition in many churches of looking at the Pastor as the one who is “in sole charge of the church”. Apart from the loneliness and isolation produced, it sets us up for failure. God has much more for us to accomplish than we could ever achieve on our own.

In this post, I am looking at the minister’s walk with God. We never walk alone if we walk with the Lord. Self-reliance is one of the biggest traps in the ministry. And it just does not make sense. 

Jesus said, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4).

Partnering with the Holy Spirit is a core value when it comes to serving God. He has all the gifts and abilities you could ever dream of, and his best intention for you is that you move forward, upheld and sustained by his empowering presence. Your natural gifts are enhanced and you also find yourself doing things that you never knew you could do, because it is not you, but he who is doing the works.

A pastor friend of mine once told me that he was about the resign from the “ministry” and become an Uber driver. I pointed out that Uber drivers have many opportunities to reach out to people and pass on some spiritual insight or help answer peoples’ questions if they enter into conversation. That is ministry.

But my friend was really wanting to find a new dynamic in his own personal life and ministry. Quite simply he was discouraged and felt disconnected from God. No wonder he was thinking of changing his vocation.

Your true vocation

I explained our true vocation was to get to know God and to learn to love him and enjoy him in the garden of our own souls. All that before we step out and reach relying on the Holy Spirit to make Christ known to others.

Once, I was also at the point of resigning from the “ministry”. I told the Lord I was tired on my ministry. Amusingly, I felt God communicate with me the fact that he was also tired of my ministry. In fact, I did resign from my own ministry. Instead, I decided to engage in God’s ministry through me. 

Futility or fruitfulness

We have shown God what we can do. Now its time to ask him to show us what he can do when we turn our ministry entirely over to him. I felt God say to me, “You have seen the futility of your own ministry, now let me show you the fruitfulness of my ministry.” It was a turning point for me.

But all this depends on cultivating deep intimacy with God. You must come to the place where you delight so much in the person of Jesus Christ, totally captivated by his overwhelming love and his mind-blowing grace, that everything else takes second place. Now, all you do for God flows from your experience of him in the secret place. Service of Christ grows out of your intimacy with him.

The Edenic vision was set in a garden, called ‘the garden of God’. It was no doubt idyllic. I picture, rushing streams of clear unpolluted water and endless rows of luscious plants with delicious fruits and much more. But it would have meant nothing without God’s presence. It was all about him. No really. ALL about him.

Entering into any place of worship with the service in full swing, you can tell straight away whether the ministry of that house is about God or something else. No matter how many times those presiding over the worship or preaching or participating in the service declare that their focus is on God, the whole atmosphere is devoid of genuine devotion. Practiced and polished presentations, slick communication techniques and all the other elements of “attractional” ministry are utterly meaningless without God’s presence impregnating everything that happens and charging the atmosphere with a deep sense of God.

So Pastors, begin with the garden of your own soul. Invite God’s presence deeply and meaningfully into your inner life. Determine that you will make no attempt to do anything for God that does not come from your genuine delight of God. That way, you will never stand or walk alone in your ministry. He will be with you every step of the way.

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