Four Stages of Ministry Part 1: Faithfulness

Mar 10, 2024    Jeremy Vess

The Four Stages of Ministry: Part One - Faithfulness

By Jeremy Vess based on "The Four Stages of Ministry" by Gerald Brooks

I had the privilege of attending a pastors forum where Gerald Brooks was leading a session entitled "The Four Stages of Ministry." The following is what I learned. (my notes and thoughts are in italicized words)

Faithfulness is conditional to fruitfulness. I’ve heard it said that “faithfulness does not necessarily qualify you for something, but unfaithfulness disqualifies you from everything.” Though this statement may sound harsh, it is very true. Though you may not be exceptional at something, you can faithfully do it and even improve your skill at it if practiced over time. However, there are hidden talents and treasures in the body of Christ that are never seen because people are not faithful in using their gifts and talents in humble situations that require their time and energy. Or perhaps their attitudes and personalities brings a looming cloud of frustration making them a person with amazing talent, but a person who can be problematic to any ministry or even in the workplace of the business world. The other glaring problem with unfaithfulness is someone's reliability. We must ask ourselves if we can be depended on especially when times get tough. We are stewards of what God has given us. This means that what we have in our possession is not ours but it is entrusted to us to use unto The LORD. 

Stage 1: Faithfulness

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.

Matthew 25:14-30: “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ 26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest…

Take note that the talents were not divided up evenly, but rather based on what each servant was capable of. A simple understanding that “life is not fair” helps us get past the concept of thinking that equity or even equality is a kingdom of heaven principle. It is not. Equity and equality wants everyone the same and for everyone to have the same amount. That is neither attainable, nor is it really fair as it holds some back from exceeding further and it gives more to those not capable of handling it. We each must take an assessment of what we have and learn to be good stewards of that. When we do that, we will receive more as we are faithful with what we’ve been given. Also, notice that the servant who hid his talents was described as ‘wicked and lazy’. 

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

Matthew 25 Verse 28 continues: So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. 29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

We must to be honest with ourselves and ask if we have become wicked and lazy with the time and talents that God has given us. We will be held accountable to the measure of what we've been given and everything we have 'hid' we will have to give an account for as to why we didn't use it. 

1 Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me because he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.

Everyone is judged by this metric of faithfulness, it is the standard set by Jesus.

Matthew 25:23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

Faithfulness is where spiritual formation occurs to create the habits that will carry you in life.

1. Faithfulness is not just about your willingness to use your gifts, it is also the test of your character and your level of obedience to God and His Word. 

2. Don’t let your gifts carry you where your character cannot sustain you. (An example of faithfulness in godly character vs ungodly character is Joseph in Genesis Chapter 39. Vs King Saul 1 Samuel 15)

3. Faithfulness must walk hand in hand with humility. Without humility pride is a pitfall for many who faithfully serve and use their gifts. 

4. Do no despise humble beginnings and remain humble as your area of influence grows.

We judge faithfulness by moments; God judge’s faithfulness in years.

1. It will most often last longer than you want.

2. Faithfulness is the stage everyone says they made it through sooner than they actually have.

3. We are more interested in the clock than God is.

4. God is not in a hurry, even if you are.

Habakkuk 2:2-3 Then the Lord answered me and said: “Write the vision And make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry.

To God, faithfulness is more important than you think.

1. Faith is when we trust God. Faithfulness is when God can trust us.

2. This stage isn’t a talent question. Talent can be perceived as a false positive. (As stated before, just because you are talented at something that does not mean you faithful at it.)

3. Faithfulness requires the ability to stay put.

Too many people are always looking at the greener grass if only they would water the grass they are already standing on. If you think your ministry or chruch has issues, keep in mind that the one your are envying has issues as well.

“We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12

1 Timothy 1:3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine

Faithfulness is often about simply staying put where God has called you even if you don’t see what you expect in the time you expect it. “Wherever you go there you are.” And if God has called you to a place you must be obedient to fulfill your calling in that place and for that time lest you miss out on the fulfillment of what He’s called you to.

To be faithful, you have to get beyond:

"I don’t want to do this."

"I don’t feel like I’m making a difference."

"I don’t think I can keep doing this."

 "Why would God have me do this?"

"This isn’t how I want to do this."

"I’m no good at doing this."

"I don’t like doing this."

We must to get to: 

"I’ll do this because God wants me to do this, and if he wants me to do this forever, I’ll keep doing this."

I recently heard a pastor friend say "I'd rather burn out than rust out!" How amazing is that statement? The world would have you plan your retirement from ministry, but I challenge you to show me a biblical example of someone who retires from the ministry. Go ahead, I'll wait...

We don’t say we’re unfaithful, we like to just redefine it.

Example: “I don’t feel led or I’m feeling led…” this statement is one of the most overused excuses for simply abandoning our posts in the Church/Ministry today. 

Your feelings are good, but they cannot be the GPS for your life. The Holy Spirit leads us, but what God has spoken in our life should keep us anchored.

Many mistake their feelings and emotions for The Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit leads through the peace of God that transcends all our understanding.

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Faithfulness in Our Worldly Culture Means:

I’m faithful as long as it is financially rewarding.

I’m faithful as long as it is fun and I like it.

 I’m faithful as long as it is fulfilling.

 I’m faithful as long as I have friends.

The Biblical Model of Faithfulness:

Realize God has given you something. A gift.

 Don’t compare what you’ve been given to others. (That’s envy)

Faithfulness requires time. It is tested over time.

Ultimately we are judged according to it.

Luke 18:8 “…However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Faithfulness is Serving with Excellence & As Unto The LORD

 1. Excellence is doing the very best with what you have.

2. Use what is in your hand:

Exodus 4:1-3 “Then Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to my voice? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’ Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied.“Throw it on the ground,” said the LORD. So Moses threw it on the ground, and it became a snake, and he ran from it.…”

* What do you have in your hand?

* What is close at hand that God can use through you?

3. Do it all as unto The LORD

Colossians 3:23-24 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

In ministry faithfulness is a must. If you cannot finish what you started it will hinder what you leave behind in this life. Moreover, it is just as important to simple start, for you cannot finish what you have never started. If GOD has called you to something HE will be faithful to you to complete it; if you do not give up. So never give up and learn how to be faithful in all situations from the least to the greatest. 

Lesson from 2023 Pastors Roundtable Victory Church Raleigh with Gerald Brooks "The Four Stages of Ministry" Additional notes & commentary added by Jeremy Vess