As we come to the end of another year, it is good to look back and take stock. Be careful though, it is easy to do this in a way that isn’t helpful.
As you look back, don’t emphasize things like ‘what fruit has my ministry produced?’, or ‘which was my best sermon?’, or ‘whose life has changed the most under my ministry?’ These kinds of questions put your focus entirely on yourself. Negative versions of the same questions still do the same.
The right way to look back is in conversation with God. Here are ten questions that may help:
1. What am I thankful for in respect to the opportunities I have had to preach? Whether you have preached a couple of times, or a couple of times a week. Whether it has been to one church, or to multiple groups, give thanks.
2. Where have I seen prayers answered in respect to my preaching? Take time to reflect on prayers answered as you look back over the specific preaching opportunities you have had. Were there some challenging sermon preps that came together as you prayed? Did certain people hear certain messages?
3. Where might my prayers have been answered without me knowing during this year? This is the important impossible one – what might have happened that you don’t know about? A lot. Ponder and pray about that.
4. What sermon preparation has most stirred my heart during this year? A specific text, or a certain series?
5. What lessons does God want me to learn from what has happened this year? Lessons about preaching, about life, about ministry, about yourself, about Him?
6. What life change have I seen that I can give thanks for? It could be gradual or sudden, salvation or growth. Give thanks for the privilege of being a part of what God is doing!
7. How has God protected my integrity during this year of ministry? You could be out of the ministry right now. How has God guarded you from that?
8. How has my intimacy with Christ developed (or faded) during this year? Don’t automatically self-evaluate. Ask God to search your heart and show you His perspective on this.
9. What should I be thankful for in terms of provision to allow my ministry? Whether it is paid employment that allows you little time to prepare, but pays the bills, or ministry-related income that makes it possible . . . give thanks.
10. Is there anything else that I should give thanks for as I finish my review? Family support? Key friends? A mentor? A preacher you look up to and learn from? A book that has helped? Challenges that have shaped you? Take time for God to bring to mind whatever has been missed in the earlier questions. Gratitude is the critical ingredient in a truly faith-driven ministry. Give thanks.