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Abby Dorman
Dr. Setran
CE 421
Dec. 15, 2016

Personal Philosophy of Ministry

Box A

My ultimate purpose in ministry begins with glorifying God.

Everything else that follows must align with that, or else something

needs to change. Glorifying God means that my main focus will be on

bringing Him praise and honor through whichever avenue I am in.

Practically, this looks like not sacrificing the truth for success. I need to

operate with integrity, honesty, and discernment, even if that means

that the work is harder or takes longer. It means always bringing my

decisions back to the Word of God as the ultimate check of authority.

As I seek to glorify God, my main task of ministry will be to show

people that they are immensely valued by God. Through my actions

and words, I want to build people up and help them realize who they

are as sons and daughters of God. This is based out of Galatians 4:6-7,

which says, And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his

Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father! So you are no longer a

slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.1 This verse

not only calls people out of a life of slavery to sin, but gives them an

even higher value as children of God. As my ministry will most likely

1 Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles,


2001), 974.
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involve serving and loving Gods people, I have to be careful not to let

my mission drift towards pleasing people rather than God. The main

passage of Scripture I would like to use to center my ministry is 2

Corinthians 5:14-15. For the love of Christ controls us, because we

have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;

and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for

themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.2 This

verse reminds me that all my ministry should be motivated by the love

that Christ has shown me and commands me to show others.

Box B

My understanding of reality begins with what I believe about the

character of God. We see Gods relational qualities displayed in the

nature of the Trinity and in His care for creation. Since humans are

created in the image of God, and the Trinitarian nature of God is

relational, we can assume that humans are also created to be

relational. God also exemplifies a perfect Father figure. He is just,

unconditionally loving, abounding in grace and mercy, and sacrificial

(Numbers 14:18, Deuteronomy 10:18, Psalm 136). I think

acknowledging the truth of who God is as Father is important because

so many people experience broken and painful relationships with their

earthly fathers. My ministry may involve reconciling these painful

father experiences with the perfect love of the heavenly Father. God

2 Holy Bible, 966.


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also promises to never be far from those who call on Him (Psalm

34:18). He is steadfast and trustworthy, so we dont have to be anxious

about the future (Matthew 6:24-25).

I believe that humans are fallen in nature, but also specifically

and intentionally created by God. This idea stands contrary to what

many people in secular culture believe today about human nature.

Many would agree with A. S. Neills belief that people are innately

good. Neill thinks that humans should be free to do anything they

want, as long as it doesnt interfere with the freedom of others. He

says, Love means approving of their behaviors.3 In todays culture,

love is equated with unconditional support for other peoples feelings

and wishes. This is a twisted interpretation of Christs command to love

one another and live in peace (2 Corinthians 13:11). I will strive to

communicate that, on the contrary, loving does not mean approving

and accepting does not mean condoning. Because I believe that

humans are born with sinful natures, I believe that some of our desires

are also sinful. Therefore, peoples feelings cannot be considered

tantamount to objective truth.

I do agree with James Smith and John Eldredge, who write that humans

are driven by love and desire. While we often see these desires abused

and misdirected, they can be positive when they are directed towards

3 A.S. Neill, Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing in The


Idea of Summerhill and The Free Child. (NY: Hart Publishing Co.,
1960), 6.
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pleasing God. Eldredge writes, Christianity refuses to budge from the

fact that man was made for pleasure, that his beginning and his end is
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a paradise, and that the goal of living is to find Life. Humans long for

fulfillment that can only be ultimately found in heaven but is often

sought in other places that leave us unsatisfied. I think these displaced

desires are a driving force for what causes people to enter into

different vices.

I also believe that culture cannot be ignored when it comes to ministry.

I think Christians in ministry should remain distinct from the culture but

not alienated from it. Its dangerous when Christians immediately

demonize everything culture has to offer, when in fact there are many

redeeming qualities that are a result of Gods creation. C.S. Lewis

writes that, Any road out of Jerusalem must also be a road into

Jerusalem5, by which he means that the pleasures found in culture

need not be disregarded after conversion just because they are not

explicitly of faith. He continues to say, Culture is a storehouse of the

best sub-Christian values. Those values are in themselves of the soul,

not the spirit. But God created the soul.6 I want to be familiar with

culture so that my ministry is not just contained to a church setting.

Specifically, I want to be involved in ministry in some way in the world

of athletics. The culture of competitive athletics is unique in that it is so

4 John Eldredge, The Journey of Desire (Nashville: Thomas Nelson,


2000), 40.
5 C.S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 22.
6 Lewis, Christian Reflections, 23.
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chiefly performance-driven. In working in ministry in this context I need

to be understanding of the role that sports play in athletes lives and

the way they can be redeemed as an incredible tool for glorifying God.

Sports also have the power to transcend global and cultural barriers, so

they can be a valuable avenue for entering into peoples lives who I

normally wouldnt be able to reach.

Finally, I believe that one of the most common ways for people to come

to faith is through experience. Reason can be convincing, but

sometimes Gods work is beyond simple human comprehension. Other

times, words dont penetrate a persons heart until they go through an

experience where they personally encounter God. This could be

through suffering, blessing, or sorrow. One thing that many of the

historical mentors we studied had in common was that they met God

when they faced major trials in their lives, and found Him to be greater

than the other desires they were pursuing. Experience is very

important to spiritual formation, and I would strive to avoid

miseducative experiences in my ministry. John Dewey does not think

that all experiences are created equal; some lead to positive education

while others can be harmful to pupils later in life. I think its important

to remember that every experience enacted and undergone modifies

the one who acts and undergoes, while this modification affects,
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whether we wish it or not, the quality of subsequent experiences.

7 John Dewey, Experience and Education (New York: Macmillan, 1938),


35.
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Every interaction I have with people is important and meaningful, and I

want to be mindful of the impact that even minor experiences can

have on others lives.

Box C

My understanding of who God is and how people operate will influence

the characteristics I strive to cultivate through my ministry. My ultimate

purpose of glorifying God can be enacted through peoples

relationships with one another, the proper stewardship of their gifts, a

healthy understanding of their identity in Christ, and an understanding

of the role of worship in their daily lives.

First, since I believe that because humans were created for

relationship with God and each other, building strong relationships is

an essential part of any ministry. Tim Keller writes that, To be loved

but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved

is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot

like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It

liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness,

and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw us.8 Relationship in

Christian community is unique because people recognize the image of

God in each other and reflect Gods love by the way they practice

service and selflessness.

8 Keller, Timothy and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage: Facing


the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (New York:
Dutton, 2011), 95.
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I also think that vulnerability is an important aspect of interpersonal

relationships. I want to foster openness through trust, which is often

built in consistent day-to-day interactions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes

about the importance of this in his book Life Together. You do not

have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were

without sin; you can dare to be a sinner.9 I want to eradicate the fear

of vulnerability that many people have today. Our culture does not

celebrate open brokenness or confession of shortcomings, but I agree

with Bonhoeffers belief that a community of believers is best built

when people are in a constant practice of confession and

accountability. All of this must be centered on love for Christ that

overflows into love for His people. In Christian community, we dont

have to be ashamed of our flaws because our worth is not dependent

on our accomplishments. This flows into my hope for cultivating a

positive self-image in people in my ministry.

People cant effectively pour into each other when they dont have a

strong grasp on who they are as children of God. Author Shauna

Niequist, a renowned Christian speaker and writer, describes her

personal battle with inadequacy, saying, In some moments, I feel such

profound self-hatred, and that terrible darkness bleeds out onto

everyone around me.10 Even amongst giants of the Christian faith, like

9 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954),
39.
10 Shauna Niequist, Present Over Perfect (Grand Rapids: Zondervan,
2016), 67.
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Teresa of Avila, these feelings of self-loathing are not uncommon. They

span across centuries, but I think they are especially prevalent in our

success-driven culture today. Confidence in Christ is the only way to

overcome the mentality that achievement equals value.

Shaunas path to healing was characterized by her understanding of

her identity as a child of God. My belief in my own worth, because of

Gods love, began to grow, like a just-lit candleAnd over time, that

deep pool of unworthiness receded a little.11 She found herself being a

better wife, mother, and friend when she wasnt constantly burdened

by shame and a need to perform. Peoples understanding of their own

worth and value as children of God empowers them to love others

more wholly. I want to foster confidence and boldness that stems from

Gods perfect love, as Paul writes in Ephesians 3:11-12: This was

according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus

our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence

through our faith in him.12

When people believe that they are truly valuable, they are free to use

the specific gifts God has given them for the good of others.

Comparison falls away at the foot of the cross because everyone is

equally broken and equally redeemed. I want to erase the idea that

some gifts are more valuable than others. Paul writes in Romans 12:4-

6, For as in one body we have many members, and the members do

11 Niequist, Present Over Perfect, 72.


12 Holy Bible, 977.
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not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in

Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that

differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them13 I want to

help people discover their specific gifts and learn how to use them

most effectively to serve God.

The use of these gifts, then, can become an act of worship to God. I

appreciated Martin Luthers philosophy that everyone in the church

was a minister in some way. Not everyone is gifted to teach or lead,

but everyone has something unique to offer that can make the body

more robust. I think its important for people to understand that their

gifts and passions can be used to serve God outside the church as well

as within Christian community. Working, playing, and learning can all

be acts of worship when we recognize that they are gifts from God

given in order to build up others. As a part of being in the culture,

Christians can go about their jobs, hobbies, and relationships with love

and excellence as a witness to Christ. I want to encourage Christians to

live out their gifts in a way that represents Christ to the people they

encounter every day.

Through my ministry, I hope to foster vulnerable and genuine

relationships amongst people who do life together. I want to help them

see the unshakeable value that they have as children of God and see

them be empowered by that value to love selflessly. I also want to help

13 Holy Bible, 948.


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them discover their gifts and find the ways in which they are uniquely

privileged to express them, both in service to others and worship to

God.

In sports, these dynamics all come into play. For many athletes,

relationships with their teammates are a big factor in their experience

in the sport as a whole. Serving and loving ones teammates and even

opponents stands contrary to the competitive and cutthroat

atmosphere that athletes often encounter. I also want to help show

that the Gospel transcends the work-based merit of athletics. In a

culture where so much self-worth is solely associated with a players

athletic ability, which can be easily lost through injury, I want to show

athletes that Gods grace is not based on anything they do or dont do.

I think many athletes struggle to understand God as someone different

from a stern coach waiting to condemn them for any mistake. Instead, I

want to show that we dont have to earn His favor and we are valued

no matter what. Finally, I want to help them understand sports as an

act of physical worship to God. Athletes who are involved in

competitive sports have been gifted to do so by God, and they can find

joy in the physical expression of those gifts through practicing,

competing, and understanding that He deserves the glory for all of it.

Box D

Practically, there are a lot of ways that I can seek to implement

these values in my ministry. First, discipleship and mentorship are


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essential for Christians who are seeking to grow in their faith. Others

can often provide fresh insight, wisdom from experience, and truth that

we wouldnt arrive at on our own. Bonhoeffer writes about the

importance of having Christian brothers and sisters in our lives who

can remind us of truth when we need encouragement. The Christian

needs another Christian who speaks Gods Word to him. He needs him

again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by

himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his

brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of

salvation.14 Discipleship and small groups also help to make sure that

no one slips through the cracks. I want to be intentional about

implementing these structures of accountability so that no one feels

like they are lacking a community of people who care about them. For

some, a small group can be a haven from a harsh work or living

environment where they may not experience Gods love as tangibly.

Ideally, the role of the small group would extend beyond occasional

meetings or bible studies. The members would be present in each

others lives regularly, so that they could provide a word of

encouragement or practical help in the moment when its most

needed.

In a sports context, this can be powerfully implemented on a team.

Teammates interact with each other on a regular basis; they go

14 Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 23.


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through difficult physical experiences together and are united in both

wins and losses. My goal as a coach would be to encourage Christ-like

community amongst the players on my team, reminding them that

every person is valuable and that they can play for a higher purpose

than just themselves. When characteristics of humility, sacrifice, and

selflessness are cultivated on a team, it can transform the way the

players interact on and off the court. By being a consistent part of my

players lives, I will also have the opportunity to come alongside them

and speak truth into their questions and struggles. Coaches have a

unique role of dictating their players sense of self-worth based on how

they treat them. I hope to show athletes that their value transcends

their athletic ability by the way that I treat them both on and off the

court.

Corrie Ten Boom employed this method in her ministry to

teenage girls in Holland before World War II. Her first concern was to

give the girls a place to meet friends, be active, and learn. Their

meetings didnt always involve Bible lessons, but Corrie found that

because she engaged in these day-to-day activities with the girls, she

had acquired their trust, and they were willing to have open

conversations and ask her more serious questions. As a teacher, Lois

LeBar found that despite spending so much time in the classroom with
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her students, Most of our real work is outside in casual personal

contacts.15

In order to bring others into community, I would use Lois LeBars

philosophy of meeting their physical needs first before attempting to

address spiritual needs. In the same way that I believe people often

come to faith after personally experiencing God in their lives, I believe

they are more receptive to hearing the Gospel when they see that the

person sharing it with them cares about their holistic well being. LeBar

writes, To start with a pupils felt need does not imply leaving him

there, but rather leading him to feel his real spiritual need and then to

find the answer to that need in the Word of God.16 In athletics, this

could mean addressing the athletes first concern of learning more

about their sport as a way of drawing in people from all backgrounds.

Eventually, hopefully the ministry would transform from just satisfying

physical desires to pointing people to fulfillment in God for their

deepest spiritual longings.

Box E

It is important to know what my goals are going into ministry so that I

can return to my ultimate purpose when I find myself drifting in a

different direction. All of these aims require thought and energy, but

they are useless if not backed up by practical action. I am not sure

15 Lois LeBar, Education That Is Christian, (Colorado Springs: Chariot


Victor, 1989), 66.
16 LeBar, Education, 69.
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exactly which avenue I want to take in order to be involved in sports

ministry, but for the sake of this implementation I will describe what

my sports ministry could look like as a coach in accordance with all of

the ideals Ive already set out.

One benefit to coaching is that I spend several hours with my

players each day, so I have the opportunity to build their trust and get

to know them on a personal level over time. My first goal as a coach

will be to treat my girls in a way that shows them that they are

unconditionally loved by God. I plan to arrange periodical meetings

with each player and make sure that they know I am always willing to

drop anything to talk to them. I will be sure to offer specific words of

encouragement so that each player knows that they add value to the

team. Many athletes are used to an environment where they are cared

for by their coach only if they can contribute on the court. I would

rather emphasize the valuable lessons that sports teach than just

caring about wins and losses. Its easy to let relationships go by the

wayside when there are many things to be done, but I always want

people to be my top priority.

In order to teach my team how to love and serve each other, I

will create opportunities to spend time together outside of basketball.

The better that people understand each others backgrounds and

personalities, the more patience they can have with them in difficult

times. I also want to help them recognize each others unique gifts and
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learn how they can use them to serve others. I will spread

responsibility to different members of the team so that they all feel

ownership for what theyre doing. I would strive to see where each

persons aptitude allows them to contribute most, whether by leading a

bible study, a practice, or planning a team event.

Despite all my goals and ideals, I know that ministry does not

often go according to plan. Theres no way to know what kind of

challenges I will face or what will be the biggest roadblocks to my

ministry. I do know that the most important thing I can do is trust God

and keep His glory as my main focus, even when the work is hard and

discouraging. In closing, I hope to remember this quote from

Bonhoeffer as he wrote about keeping his dreams for ministry in proper

perspective. He who loves his dream of a community more than the

Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even

though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and

sacrificialThe man who fashions a visionary ideal of community

demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himselfHe acts

as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds


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men together.

17 Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 27.


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Bibliography

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together. New York: Harper & Row, 1954.

Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York: Macmillan, 1938.

Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles,

2001.

Keller, Timothy, and Kathy Keller. The meaning of marriage: facing the

complexities of commitment with the wisdom of God. New York:

Dutton, 2011.

Lebar, Lois E. Education that is Christian. Colorado Spring, Co.: Chariot

Victor Publishing, 1989.

Lewis, C. S., and Walter Hooper. Christian reflections. Grand Rapids:

W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1967.

Neill, A. S. "The Idea of Summerhill". New York, NY: Hart, 1960.

Niequist, Shauna. Present over perfect: leaving behind frantic for a

simpler, more soulful way of living. Grand Rapids, MI:


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Zondervan, 2016.