As ministers of God, we are all called to “never be lacking in zeal” and to “keep our spiritual fervour serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). The word “slothful” in Greek is okneros. It means “lazy, idle, inactive, and lagging behind”.

In other words, what Paul is telling all of us here is this: don’t slack. Don’t be lazy. In total contrast, we are all challenged to be fervent in spirit.

The word “fervent” is the Greek word zeo, which means “to boil with heat” and “to be hot”.

Interestingly, the word can also be translated as “fever”. Simply put, we are called to stay hot for Jesus. In Chinese, we say “为神发烧” (have a fever for Jesus)!

Whatever we do – do not lack zeal. Otherwise, we will be like Cappuccino without froth; spaghetti without sauce; Nasi Lemak without chilli.

So, having been in ministry for over 40 years, I decided to ask myself this question one day: How do I keep fresh in ministry? That was when I reflected and wrote down these eight points that I hope to pass on to you today.

1. Nurture your inner life consistently

Have you heard of glasswing butterflies? These butterflies have transparent wings, and they are also called “invisible butterflies”.

In a Facebook post about these butterflies, I found a quote that says, “All things beautiful may not be in full colour to be noticed. In life, that which is unnoticed can be the most powerful.”

But the reality is that we all tend to ignore what we cannot see, and we tend to gravitate towards the visible and spectacular. That’s how we sometimes end up being superficial and shallow people.

However, our inner is that which dictates who we are and what we do when no one is watching. That is the real us.

We are no better than the state of our inner world, and our ministry is an overflow of our inner life. So we need to cultivate our inner life carefully and make sure that what’s inside is not a desert but a garden.

Here are five areas of our inner life that we can look at:

  • Devotion: Our personal walk with God
  • Motivation: What drives us, why we do what we do
  • Contemplation: Our thought life
  • Preoccupation: Our routines, our calendar
  • Restoration: Our rest and Sabbath

If we take care of the depth of our life, God will take care of the breadth of our ministry.

2. Deal with sin resolutely

“Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

Sin will dry us up spiritually and diminish our spiritual vitality. When we sin, it does something to us. So we must take time to take stock of our lives and keep short accounts with God.

We need to learn to always come clean before God. And the gospel is what gives us a safe environment to come clean.

Without the gospel, I might not dare to take an inward journey into my own soul because what I find inside may be too ugly to behold. It is only because of the gospel that I know I have been made beautiful in Christ.

The gospel tells me that I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dare believe. Yet, I am also more accepted and loved than I ever dared to hope for because of what Jesus has done for me.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The gospel is the remedy for those who struggle with sin. But it is not an excuse to sin.

Because of the gospel, I can say that I have nothing to prove, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide. I can come out of hiding and ask for forgiveness.

3. Clarify your purpose clearly

As we walk on with the Lord, we need to come to a point where we find clarity in our own sense of calling and destiny.

Once we know our calling and our destiny, we know what to pursue. We find a sense of focus and direction, and we find the inner compass that we orientate our lives with.

Once we are clear about why we do what we do, we can face up to any challenge. Come what may, we will do whatever it takes to get the assignment done.

Our purpose brings clarity and freshness into everything that we do.

4. Keep a think-time regularly

As we serve God, sometimes we become so busy that we don’t even have time to think properly. We simply keep on doing but we actually don’t process that much.

A think-time is simply an extended time that I set aside weekly to think, to reflect, to process, to pray and to prepare for the week ahead.

A possible framework that I find helpful is this:

  • A slot of time per day
  • An extended time per week
  • A few days per year

And here’s a suggestion of how you can spend the extended think-time every week:

  • First hour: Read large chunks of Scriptures to feed my soul 
  • Second hour: Read a book of my choice to glean from other people
  • Third hour: Integrate my learnings with past knowledge to pass them on to the people I mentor
  • Fourth hour: Talk through my calendar with God to ask for strength and wisdom

The Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30 puts it very simply. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.

“Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

5. Commit to lifelong learning diligently

We need to be lifelong learners and always maintain the spirit of curiosity. If we keep learning, we will keep growing. Like the Chinese say, “活到老, 学到老” (live till old, learn till old).

Always take time to reflect and go deeper into the Word of God ourselves. Keep company with the wise and we will become the wise.

If I can challenge us: make it a point to always make a link between our learnings and our discipleship. Whatever we learn, try to always pass that on to those we are shepherding.

6. Maintain a magnanimous spirit internally

Maintain a magnanimous spirit and develop a big-heartedness so that we don’t become jaded or offended, but will always keep fresh.

In our work as leaders and ministers, we will always come across people who need to change and people who need to return to God. But the truth is that they are sometimes not ready and not willing.

That’s why we need to learn the “grace of letting others be”. If they are not ready, we need to let God do His work in them. We cannot over-manage our people and truncate the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

We need to be bighearted enough to embrace them, to be quick to forgive and slow to be offended. Don’t be a grace killer. Be a grace-giver.

7. Be kind to yourself deliberately

We all need time to do things that will fill up our emotional tank and rejuvenate us so that we can last the distance. Don’t be too caught up in the performance trap.

Find a hobby. Create an oasis. Find a healthy outlet. Get a playpen. Be deliberate to rejuvenate, refresh and reinvigorate yourself!

Don’t beat yourself up all the time. If we would never dream of taking the credit, then we don’t have to take the blame.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Only take God seriously. Let’s not think too much of ourselves.

8. Build your mentoring constellation intentionally

I believe this is a non-negotiable when it comes to keeping one’s ministry fresh. We all need:

  • Mentors above us (e.g. Paul)
  • Mates alongside us (e.g. Barnabas and Silus)
  • Mentees below us (e.g. Timothy)

No one walks alone. We all need community. 

We all need accountable relationships that we can pray for, invest in, cultivate and treasure!

That’s all from Pastor Benny Ho! Keep a look out for our last article from the Summit on the importance of Children’s Ministry.