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What does aggressive ministry look like?

May 19, 2016 | by Allen Hamlin

I am not an aggressive person by nature. I’m a conflict-avoiding, noncompetitive type who struggles to relate to the warrior imagery that frequently appears in Scripture.

There are two verses in particular, words from our Lord, that challenge me to consider ministry in a way that doesn’t fit my natural bent.

Matthew 12:29 presents ministry using the image of binding a strong man in order to plunder his house, and Matthew 16:18 describes the Church saying, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Both of these verses depict for us a sense of the spiritual warfare that should characterize our ministry. Jesus presents us with aggressive images—not us defending our house from a strong man’s attacks, but rather moving in to loot his goods. Not the Church trying to maintain a defense against the forces of evil, but a promise that the gates of hell will not withstand the onslaught of the Kingdom of God.

So what does such an aggressive style of ministry look like in practical terms?

There are certainly plenty of historical examples that show us how we can do it wrongly. Overseas cross-cultural missions is littered with testimonies of imposing certain forms, practices, styles, and cultures upon native populations. Clearly this is not a positive form of aggressive ministry.

So too, the berating public tirades of wandering evangelists whom I frequently witnessed on my university campus is perhaps not exactly the most desirable manifestation of aggressive ministry.

What if we evaluated the aggressiveness of our ministries in terms of their display of passion, their use of our God-given offensive weapon (“the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”), their proactive approach in reaching out (“Go into all the world”), and their determination to see enslaved and broken people set free and made whole?

Truly, these are challenging notions for someone like me who would incline toward ministry that tends more toward responsive pastoral care. And at the same time, this model may also be challenging to those who are naturally more forthright.

A biblical characterization of aggressive ministry probably does not include being belligerent, fanatical, violent, or commanding. Rather, godly aggressive ministry is a display of (God’s) might, (God’s) authority, and (God’s) victory.

A sower went out to sow…. This too is a picture of aggressive ministry. Laboring out in the elements, opposing the curse to be found in the environment, casting broadly the seed of the Word of God, passionately pursuing a fruitful harvest—these are hallmarks of the people and the work that God is commissioning for His harvest fields.

In what ways is your ministry biblically aggressive? And who receives the brunt of that aggression? Does it fall upon the Enemy strong man, or the local residents of the communities and cultures into which we’ve been called?

Allen Hamlin
Allen Hamlin has served overseas since 2006, and provides team building consultation around the world. He currently lives in Wales, and oversees ministries in the southern UK. He is the author of Embracing Followership (Kirkdale Press; Feb 2016).

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