Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
-- Feeding Jesus' sheep
-- Equipping His servants
-- Proclaiming His Gospel

Foundations for Ministry


by Dennis Pollock

Every profession, position, or station in life requires training. No sane man or woman would ever jump into a profession without spending considerable time in preparation. Whether soldier, doctor, athlete, or rocket scientist, there must be training. Essentially, training involves the laying of foundations in one’s life that will transform that individual from clueless to qualified. Skills must be developed, knowledge must be acquired, instincts must be honed, insights must be gained, and understanding must be attained.

This is not only true in the physical realm; it is also paramount in the spiritual. Just as no army would take men off the streets and send them untrained and ignorant into battle, neither will our God send His servants into significant ministry tasks without first equipping them for service. The nature, the length, and the exact type of the equipping can differ widely from person to person. But our Lord will see to it that His children are fully equipped for the tasks He intends for them. Usually occurring in our spiritual youth, and then augmented with various “refresher courses” throughout our lives, He will provide us all we need to get His work done.

It seems as though I have been learning and in the process of being taught by the Lord all of my adult life. Nevertheless, there was a special time in my early days in Christ which I now recognize as the season in which God laid some of the major foundations for the ministry which I have been exercising all these many years since. It began for me at the tender age of twenty-five, when I began teaching a tiny group of believers in the small town of Louisiana, Missouri.

I had been to Bible college prior to that, but financial pressures had forced me to leave after a brief time, and thus held no Bible college degree and no seminary training. What I had was a teaching degree, but oddly, about the time I graduated, I began to feel the tug toward full-time ministry. I couldn’t imagine how this could happen, but the pressure to serve Christ as a minister was so strong, I could not deny it. When a handful of Christians whom I knew from a Bible study asked me to teach them on Sundays, I was elated. This was surely my open door to serving Christ in the ministry!

And so it proved to be. The little group grew into a small church. At first, we averaged eight to ten people in attendance and met in one another’s homes. As we grew, we rented a “store-front” building, and proudly painted our name (New Covenant Fellowship) on the window. I ended up staying there about seven years as pastor, and this truly became my Bible college, my seminary, my spiritual training ground, and my “Wilderness University.” In those quickly passing years I learned truths and gained insights which have become an vital aspect of my life and ministry for all the years that have followed, even up to this present day. In this study, I want to share with you what I consider to be some of the major foundations and insights which the Lord produced in me, as I spent those years pastoring a small church in a small town.

FOUNDATION # 1: A knowledge of the word of God. One of the interesting features of my time with that church was that it quickly grew to a size where it could support me full time, and allowed me to quit my school teaching job and devote all of my daytime hours to the Lord. But it never grew much larger than that. We probably averaged around 70 people in attendance in our last several years, and never seemed able to break the 100 barrier. This meant I could go down to my little office every day and spend time praying, reading the Bible, and working on sermons, but I had few demands on my time from our members. In a sense, I had more time on my hands than I really needed.

I have always loved reading, and with all that free time I began to read the Scriptures as never before. I read the New Testament through many times each year. In one particular year I read the Old Testament three times and I probably read through the New Testament more than a dozen times. I also developed the habit of memorizing a page of Bible verses every week. Nobody told me to do this. I had no Bible college instructor giving me homework assignments. The compulsion to immerse myself in Scripture seemed to come from within, and I gladly gave myself to the word of God.

I also developed the habit, which I continue to this day, of reading the Bible aloud. I discovered that I frequently felt the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit as I did this, and this presence kept me doing it, and I have now been reading the Scriptures aloud for nearly forty years. I believe it has made a significant difference in my life, and I am convinced that my time in God’s word in those days laid foundations and equipped me for the work Christ has assigned to me in all the following years. Paul told Timothy that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God “that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

FOUNDATION # 2: An emphasis on Jesus Christ. Because of my passion for the Scriptures, I have never been content to be merely a pulpit-pounding preacher, with a heavy emphasis on forcefulness, but little content. I love to teach the word, and in any study, I love to dig out all the relevant Scriptures and Bible passages and analyze them, one by one. In those early days, this made for some really long sermons, and for that I apologize to my longsuffering church members! But one mistake I made in my early days was to be so tunnel-focused that I neglected to relate my topic to Jesus Christ. If I preached on Samson, I might cover the story very thoroughly, but you might never hear me mention Jesus. Of course, in my preaching on New Testament topics, you would hear about Jesus, but whether you heard little or much about Jesus, or nothing at all in my sermons, would largely depend upon the text from which I was preaching.

One day, in studying a book by Charles Spurgeon, I read something that shook me to the core. Spurgeon was passionate about preaching Christ, and he declared that any minister who could go through an entire sermon and never mention Jesus should leave the ministry and take up some other occupation. Spurgeon went on to say that there should be enough of Jesus and the gospel in every sermon to convert a soul. I was stunned. I knew that I did not always make a deliberate attempt to relate every topic to Jesus. And as I read more and more of Spurgeon’s writings and sermons, I became so convicted that I determined that from then on I would make sure to lift up Jesus in every sermon.

At first I started out by simply writing the name JESUS at the top of my sermon notes. Eventually I began deliberately seeking ways to identify parallels to Jesus and the gospel in every Bible passage, Old Testament or New Testament. After a while this went beyond my preaching and worked its way into my writing as well. Ultimately the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the centrality of Jesus became “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” When I hear a sermon from a preacher who can get through his entire message without mentioning Jesus, or read a “Christian” book which never even mentions the Savior, it seems absolutely criminal to me.

doveFOUNDATION # 3: An acquaintance with the Holy Spirit. I am not sure why, but for some reason I have always been fascinated by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps some of it has to do with all the biographies of the great evangelists that I read in those early days. I believe it is no coincidence that the men and women whom God has used in the greatest measure have typically possessed a greater than normal appreciation of and respect for the Holy Spirit. When I read their biographies and auto-biographies I frequently came across references to the Holy Spirit.

The biography of the missionary Jonathan Goforth made a profound impact on me. Goforth is not well known these days, and that is a shame. While he never became a “famous evangelist” he was surely one of the most anointed non-famous evangelists of all time. Goforth had a ministry to the Chinese and it seemed that wherever he went, the Holy Spirit fell, Christians repented of their sins, and many non-believers were converted.

Goforth did not begin his ministry this way, however. In his early days he was relatively ineffectual, and he was frustrated. He longed to be used by the Lord in a greater way, but didn’t know how that could happen. Finally, he began to recognize that power for effective service was tied to the Person of the Holy Spirit. He began to search the Scriptures. Every day he would get up early and study his Bible for hours, looking for references to the Holy Spirit. As he read through his Bible, underlining and jotting down notes on every reference to the Holy Spirit, his heart was thrilled. He became so obsessed that his wife feared he was losing his mind, but in time God’s power began to come upon his life and ministry, and great revival and outpourings of the Holy Spirit followed him wherever he went.

As I studied my Bible in my tiny little office in that small town in Missouri, I did pretty much the same thing. I eagerly searched for every reference to the Holy Spirit. I marveled as I discovered that the Holy Spirit even came upon Old Testament believers. In time, I began to sense a definite anointing in my life. Sometimes, as I preached I could feel that anointing, and my words would flow so much more freely than normal. Sometimes the anointing would be absent and I hated it. But I learned that when that anointing was at work, ministry was a delight and people were blessed. At times the anointing would linger long after I finished preaching and I would feel that sweet presence of the Spirit many hours after church was over. In time, I began to feel that presence even while doing “secular” things, such as shopping, or even watching television.

It has always been somewhat of a mystery. I cannot make it appear, nor can I explain why it is sometimes strong, sometimes weak, and sometimes feels entirely absent. And this keeps me in a place of dependence. I have no fear of public speaking. Speaking before several thousand people brings no more fear to me than speaking to a couple of friends at a restaurant. But the one thing that keeps me from becoming overconfident is that I never know the measure of the anointing I will experience in any given sermon, teaching, or Christian ministry. At least I don’t know it until I begin to actually do the ministry. At that point I quickly find out!

While I cannot produce anointing by my will, there are a few things that seem to make that anointing more likely to appear. The major thing is simply time in the presence of the Lord. Typically, but not always, the more time I spend beforehand in God’s word and prayer, the more likely the anointing will be to appear. Fasting beforehand helps as well. Also, I have learned that it is better to claim the anointing promises, such as “He who believes on Me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,” rather than simply begging over and over for anointing.

These are several of the key foundations which were laid in my life as I pastored that small church of around seventy people in the little town of Louisiana, Missouri. When I travel today to Africa to preach in large evangelistic crusades, I take these foundations with me. If I am invited to teach in a local church here in Texas, I take my wife along, and my Bible, and my notes… and these foundations go right along with me. My time with that church never seemed to amount to much in terms of producing a large church or making a major impact on the community – but God used that time to make a major impact upon a young pastor with a lot of zeal, but not much knowledge.


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