Ajith Fernando

Crossway Books, 2002, 250 pp.  ISBN 1-58134-445-7


Fernando is known globally as a gifted Bible teacher and speaker. He has been the Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka since 1976.  I highly recommend this book for people in ministry.  Fernando challenges us with biblical principles for godly living and leading that he has learned through his own Bible study and ministry.  He is especially helpful in dealing with frustrations, pressures, discouragements, and temptations, many of which he has endured in a country that has seen twenty years of civil war and where Christians are a minority.


“I believe the greatest crisis facing Christian leadership today concerns lifestyle—always the burning issue.”  “Perhaps the greatest need in the training of leaders today is to provide guidelines to help them live as biblical men and women.” (Introduction, 14)


“We are not used to experiencing frustration and pain.  So when we face such, we tend to shrink from it.  But frustration and pain are essential features of incarnational ministry.  So if we are to truly identify with our people, we must expect frustration and pain.  If we don’t, we may be taken by surprise when we encounter it and be tempted to leave this work for an easier path or be so disillusioned that we lose the joy of ministry.” (22)


“Sermons should disturb, convict, and motivate to radical and costly obedience.  I have wondered whether people’s desired result from sermons is to enjoy themselves rather than to be changed into radical disciples who will turn the world upside down.  If this is so, the church has assimilated the postmodern mood that considers inner feelings more important than commitment to principles.” (23)


Missionary training “will be useless if the willingness and ability to pay the price of commitment do not accompany it.  And the key to paying that price is the ability to identify and persevere with a group to which one is committed even when it is frustrating to do so.” (23)


“Learning to pay the price of commitment is a key to developing deep fruit in ministry anywhere in the world.” (24)


“Despite our claims that our organizations and churches are families, most of them are run like corporations.” (26)


“When one is committed enough to pay the price of identifying with people, he or she is adopting a pragmatic approach to ministry.  Commitment does pay, for it begets commitment in others and makes our ministry more effective!” (27)


“…when the Bible speaks of the fullness of the Spirit as a condition, it is speaking of a state where the Spirit governs people’s lives so that his work is evident in both their behavior and ministry.  There is an urgent need to recover this emphasis today.”  One role of the Spirit is to help form character.  “The result of neglecting the latter aspect of the Spirit’s work is that we are seeing a high incidence of moral and spiritual failure among people with powerful ministries….”  (33)


“It is a huge burden to go through life with unsettled spiritual business.”  (35)


“I fear that the behavior of the present generation of Christian leaders is such that we are going to give the next generation a very poor example of godliness.” (35)


“Long-term effectiveness in ministry is a result of a life characterized by the fullness of the Spirit.” (36)


“In a time of crisis, before we meet hostile people, we must first meet God.  Our ministry is primarily not a reaction to the anger and rejection of people.  It springs from God’s acceptance of us as his valued servants and from the filling by the Spirit to meet the challenges that we face.” (39)


“What is important is that we maintain our closeness to God.  And I know of no better way to maintain that connection than by praying.” (45)


One of the really big battles in my life “was the battle to overcome anger over the way people have treated me.  This is a crucial battle, and I know that if I do not win here, my life and ministry could be ruined.”  (56)


“I would often struggle with deep discouragement [in college].  During this time I got into the habit of going for long walks.  I would not turn back to where I was staying until I had a sense that the joy of the Lord was restored.  Sometimes this did not happen for a long time, but I would persevere in grappling with the Lord until I sensed his joy.  Then during the walk back, I would give myself to intercession.  At the heart of the joy that was restored on these occasions was the assurance that God was with me and was looking after me.  When I accepted that in my heart, I had no reason to be depressed.” (56)


“A person of prayer helps breed people of prayer.” (65)


“The question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.” (65, quoting Nouwen) 


“As a leader of a youth organization, I want young people to see our staff and volunteers first and foremost as people in touch with God.” (65)


“Let me urge you to make concrete plans for including both mini-retreats and regular retreats in your life.  Life usually moves so fast for a Christian leader that if a regular retreat is not planned ahead of time, and if concrete convictions are not formulated for when one should take mini-retreats, we may never get around to taking the needed break.” (69)


“In the book of Acts and in the history of the church, some of the most brilliant people gave themselves to minister to the unreached.  One thinks of Paul, Henry Martyn, and Stephen Neill.  Is this same think happening today?  Some of the most brilliant minds in the church should be working among AIDS patients, the desperately poor, the extremely rich, Muslims, New Agers, and in nations were the percentage of Christians is negligible.  There is so much in our ministerial structures that prevents this from happening.” (78)


“…faith is wholeheartedly submitting to God’s will with the firm assurance that God knows what is best for us.” (79)


“Often God leads us to a step of surrendering something we love before blessing us with his marvelous provision.” (80)


“Many evangelical groups and churches are in big trouble today because they have broken Christian principles in their pursuit of growth and success.  A passion for Christ and the lost (which should have caused people to be obedient to Christ in all things) seems to have been replaced by a passion for growth that tempts them to use questionable means to achieve it.” (85)


“It is significant that all three of Jesus’ temptations had to do with choosing the will of God over alternate paths.  With the first temptation it was the will of God over his rights and privileges.  The second dealt with God’s will over uncrucified desires, and the third with God’s will over wrong paths to success.  The will of God is ultimately the most important thing in our lives.”  (87)


“The Gospels have Jesus referring to the Old Testament at least ninety times, through quotation, allusion to an event, or language similar to biblical expressions.  This number expands to 160 when one counts duplication in parallel accounts.” (89)


“If we give up biblical principles for quick results or what seems to be an easier way out of our problems, we lose the security of being anchored to the Word.” (94)


“When things all around us are bleak, the Word gives us the opposite message: God is sovereign and will work his purposes out through the apparent setbacks.” (95)


“People who are not being constantly trained and nourished by God’s Word will lose freshness in their ministries.”  “Spending time in the Word deepens our knowledge even without our realizing it, and that depth will show when we speak.”  (97)


“The worldview of the unchurched in the West is very different from the Christian worldview.”  “When people come to Christ, they too will have to make a huge shift in their thinking.  If they are not properly fed with the Word, they will not be sanctified in the truth.” (98)


“A satisfactory religion must satisfy.  But satisfy what and why?   …Christianity satisfies the intellect because it is true, and truth is the only everlasting satisfaction.”  (100 quoting Gordon Haddon Clark)


“One of the saddest consequences of the recent trend of downplaying the value of objective truth is that the church has lost the joy of truth.”  (100)


“Many who claim to believe that the Scriptures are inerrant and the final authority for all matters of faith and practice betray that belief by not using Scripture as if it were the supreme authority.  We have to demonstrate to the church that the Scriptures are relevant, exciting, and desperately needed for a happy and holy life.” (100)


“There are so many study Bibles and other aids today that I have a great fear that Christian leaders are not really studying the Bible itself anymore.” (102)


“Over the years my most important way to be fed from the Word has been direct inductive Bible study.  But I have also found great refreshment from books that teach the Scriptures.” (103)


Bishop Stephen Neill “recommended that we take a meaty book and slowly go through it over a period of weeks….”  Roy Pearson said, “When a minister stops studying, he simply stops.”  (104)


“Books are getting scarce in the church, and many Christians are strangers to the Bible!” (105)


“Psychologists say that if people sense that what they are doing with their life is significant, then they will be happy.  Joy is one of the rewards of Christian ministry.” (116)


greatness - the ability to persevere with a difficult but important work amidst much hardship and deprivation  (119)


“G.E. Ladd says, ‘Perhaps the most important single verse in the Word of God for God’s people today is…Matthew 24:14.’  This is because it presents what should be the most important agenda in the church’s program: the taking of the gospel to the whole world.”  (123)


“Ministers in every era need to look through the eyes of Scripture at their cultures and see what sins they need to be alert to.  I can think of several such areas that are important today.” (124)


“The one who has all authority has entrusted us with a commission, and we are to proclaim this message with confidence based on his authority.  We are to attempt to preach this gospel everywhere in the world.  Even when people do no want the gospel preached in some areas, we will attempt to do it because the Lord of the universe has asked us to do so, and his authority is higher than that of all other earthly authority.” (126)


“Perhaps the tragedy with the evangelical church is that feelings overcome theology very often in determining the way we decide and act.” (133)


“I pray almost daily for the people with whom I work closely, and when you pray for someone so regularly, you automatically develop a special affinity for that person.” (134)


“Many of our personal weaknesses and problems are best solved with the active involvement of the body of Christ.  I believe there are many Christian workers today who are fighting a losing battle with these problems with no help from anyone in the body.  That is tragically wrong.  The Bible teaches that we can and must get help from the body in order to grow and be made whole.” (137)


“We have to create an organizational culture in our groups where loving and sensitive confrontation is appreciated and valued.” (138)


“I believe that all ministers should be part of the equivalent of Wesley’s band—a group of people to whom they are accountable.”  “Those who live or work together are able to see what is really happening in each other’s lives.  This can be a great asset, given our natural tendency to rationalize our faults and withhold some of the truth when reporting about our own weaknesses to others.  We can give our accountability groups an unrealistic picture, and they would have no way of knowing whether we are telling them the whole story.  Boards with members who are not actively involved in a ministry suffer from this disadvantage.  Usually the only worker on the board is the leader, and what members will hear at the meetings are the leader’s perspectives on the issues.  Also, other people may observe weaknesses that the person himself or herself may not recognize.” (149)


“But for help with the many personal decisions and activities of my life, I go to two main groups.”  One group consists of five board members in YFC.  “The other group consists of my fellow leaders in YFC, and we usually meet once every two weeks.  The members of this group are much younger than I am, but they are the ones I work closely with and, therefore, in some ways are the more important group in my life.”    When they meet, they ask each other accountability questions taken from  (150-51)


“I give them a report of my behavior after each trip I make abroad.  They know the areas of vulnerability in my life, and I report to them on those areas.  And how many times the wisdom of these friends has saved me from some very foolish things!”  (151)


“In biblical Christianity power without holiness is useless and unacceptable.”  “In biblical religion holiness is so important that all our success would be worthless without it.  Holiness is clearly one of the primary qualifications for leadership.” (156)


“When Christians are tempted to lie, to give a bribe, to take revenge, to be prejudiced against someone, or to act in a dishonorable way, the lives of their leaders should act as a deterrent.  Seeing the way their leaders behave should give people such a thirst for God that they will be ashamed of sin and earnestly desirous of holiness.  If leaders are not holy, the members have an excuse for unholiness.” (157)


“My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” (158 quoting Robert Murray McCheyne)


“When it comes to status and honor, we are servants.  When it comes to function and responsibility, we are parents.  Leadership does not have to do with status; it has to do with responsibility.” (161)


“Few things keep us fresh in ministry as much as the ministry of discipling.” (164)


“I like to define servanthood as the commitment to do all we can for the welfare of the people whose servants we are.  In fact, I would include this in my list of the three most important roles of a leader.”  (164)


“Some leaders feel that, as CEO of the organization/church, they must look at the big picture and cannot afford time to work toward the fulfillment of God’s best for individuals.  This is not the biblical model.  The organization or church will not suffer because leaders are devoted to those they lead.”  (164-65)


“Very high up on our priorities should be caring for the people we lead.”  “There is no substitute for unhurried times spent with those we lead.  In fact, spending such time is one of our primary aims as leaders.” (165)


“I have come to believe that praying for those I lead is the most important thing that I do as a leader.” (167)


“I believe that if today’s leaders spend the time to cultivate warm ties like this with those hey lead, the result would be a powerful sense of comradeship in the gospel within our ministry teams.  The time spent together helps create an environment where the team members are free to share what is on their minds.  Workers can clear up misunderstandings and resolve their objections to the course of action proposed by the leader.  The result is an atmosphere where high motivation could result if the team has a passionate mission to achieve.” (174)


The Great Commission in the New Testament:  Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21; Acts 1:8, but also John 17:18; Acts 10:42.  Matthew – many points, Mark – the extent of the challenge, Luke – the message and the power, John – Jesus as the model, Acts – the power needed.  “Jesus demonstrates visionary leadership here.  He always keeps before the people the grand and glorious work that must be done.  This is one of the key requirements of a leader, to place before the people the grand picture.” (181-82)


“I believe that the frequent repetition of the commission to preach the gospel and the variety of ways in which it is presented in the four Gospels and Acts indicate that this task is so important that it must always be a priority in the program of the church.  This why I believe that it is still correct to say that world evangelization is the supreme task of the church.”  (182)


“There is another reward of costly commitment to people….  When leaders die for their people, these people—challenged by the commitment of their leaders—will die for their church or organization.”  (187)


“We are seeing more and more people today who are moving to churches ‘where they feel more comfortable.’  When did comfort become such a high value in ministry and church life?  Was it when we left the path of biblical Christianity?  The gospel is too radical and the needs of the world too urgent for us to ever be comfortable!” (197)


“The gospel must always be uppermost in our program.  Compassion is an aspect of the gospel.  Therefore, it will always be an aspect of our ministry in the world.  But if the acts of compassion are done primarily to ‘win people to our side’ and to grow as a church, we can end up with a lot of problems.  People could go through the motions of committing their lives to Christ and joining the church while their primary focus is still, ‘What material and physical benefits can I get form this church?’  When we see this happening, we may need to take some definite steps to correct the misunderstanding.” (203)


“I have to plan particularly for recreation when I am traveling.  I try to avoid hotels.  I find that staying in homes is much more wholesome and a better aid to identifying with people.  Indeed, our hosts may talk too long when we are tired, but that is a great way to get to know people.  If I am staying in a hotel, when I come to my room after a busy day, my mind is usually too active for me to go to sleep at once.  I could be tempted to watch unedifying television.  So I have to make plans prior to this about what I will do.” (239)


“In recent times I have been reflecting much on the idea that prayer is one of the surest means of preventing burnout in ministry.”  “But I do believe that time spent daily lingering in the presence of God is a great preventative to burnout and other ill effects of stress and hard work.” 


“Your quiet time is like traveling by train to the office when you are really under pressure with a lot of work to do.  …when you are on the train, no amount of running or fretting will help you.  You might as well relax and enjoy the ride.” (240)