Don’t you hate annual work evaluations? Here at Moody Bible Institute my department chairman sits down with me every year to assess how I’m doing. Honestly, I’ve never had a bad review but each time, it leaves me queasy. And if I’m ever told, “Here’s what you can do better Michael”, that’s the only part of the review I actually remember. All the affirmations are lost in the haze of one encouragement to improve. Nevertheless, these annual check-ups are as necessary as an annual visit to the Doctor. It really helps me to know how I’m doing and to improve.
And since we are all expected to be workers in the ministry, I’d like to suggest we do a ministry self appraisal. It’s a good time to do this since Labor Day weekend is next week. So, what are the marks of a good worker in the ministry? The standards can be found in 2 Timothy 2:14-19. Last week we looked at a verse in the center of that paragraph—2 Tim 2:15, describing a good worker in the Word. But vv. 14 and 16-19, describe a bad worker in the ministry. Those verses can be used to assess how well we’re doing. As we look at them, we’ll notice that a good worker in God’s work has seven qualities. I like to call these the seven habits of highly effective ministry workers.
First, a good worker in the ministry focuses on essentials not trivialities. Paul tells Timothy to remind and charge his congregation before God “not to wrangle about words which is useless.” (2 Tim 2:14). They are to avoid “worldly and empty chatter” (2 Tim 2:16). Did you ever notice that some people love to argue about what is least important. I got a letter last month all upset with my explanation of the meaning of Jesus being in the tomb for three days and three nights. The letter said my interpretation, was of the anti-Christ and would destroy the faith of God’s people. This letter ignored what is most important—that I was proclaiming that the Lord Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, proving He is fully God. Remember, we need to keep the main thing, the main thing. Let’s focus on the essential not minor matters.
Second, a good worker in the ministry builds up fellow believers and doesn’t tear them down. In v. 14, Paul says that arguments about trivial words “leads to the ruin of the hearers.” The word “ruin” is literally “catastrophe.” Arguing about the unimportant brings destruction to the spiritual lives of others. Our goal should be to edify others, to build up and strengthen our brothers and sisters.
Third, a good worker in the ministry increases godliness in others as opposed to decreasing it. In v. 16, Paul says that emphasizing trivialities “will lead to further ungodliness.” It should always be our goal to help others grow in their walk with the Lord by our example and our teaching. Dr. George Sweeting, fifth President of Moody Bible Institute is my favorite example. When I grow up I’d like to be like him. Here’s why: I’ve known Doc for 46 years. In every encounter I’ve ever had with him, he’s always made me want to be more like Jesus.
Fourth, a good worker in the ministry has a life affirming impact not a deadly one. Paul warned of the work of Hymanaeus and Philetus, whose talk would “spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:17). Gangrene sets in when the soft tissue of a body part dies because it is disconnected from the blood supply. Enough gangrene and the whole body dies. A good worker is someone who brings life by pointing others to the Lord. Have you noticed that everyone is entitled to review anyone or anything on the internet. Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, even doctors. I read a review of a physician that said, “This doctor is wonderful but most of his patients die.” We’d hate that kind of review of our ministries. Let’s bring help and hope to people not spiritual death.
Fifth, a good worker in the ministry affirms the truth not false and foolish teachings. In v. 18, Paul writes that these two poor workers “deviated from the truth” because they say the resurrection from the dead had already taken place. The word “deviated” means to miss the mark or to swerve from the goal. Good workers learn sound doctrine. Not only do they stick to it themselves but teach it to others also.
Sixth, a good worker in the ministry strengthens the faith of others rather than tearing it down. These two false teachers, according to v. 18, “overturn[ed] the faith of some.” I once knew a really fine woman in our congregation that struggled with spiritual doubts. So, rather than seeking answers to her questions, she felt had to “be honest” with her fellow congregants and tore down not just the faith of others in the congregation but also people in her own family. A wise person would get help before spreading their doubts to others—this way they could show how their doubts were resolved and build faith in other people.
Finally, a good worker in the ministry is growing in obedience to the Lord not disobedience. In v. 19, Paul says God’s foundation is inscribed with the words that God knows those who genuinely belong to Him because “they turn away from unrighteousness.” Not one of us, in this life, can say that we are fully obedient to the Lord. We’ll continue to struggle with sin. The mark of good workers is that they actually struggle with sin instead of giving in to it. Turning away from unrighteousness every day will bring God’s affirmation one day, when we stand before Him, and He says, “Well done, good and faithful worker.”
Let’s go over these seven habits and let’s grade ourselves on them from 1-5, one being the weakest and five being the strongest. How did you do? I’m sure we all could do better on this self-evaluation, but don’t be discouraged. The Lord Jesus is not looking for perfection from us, just a desire to grow in these areas. Let’s use these seven habits as a means of growing as good workers in the ministry.