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Category Archives: The Church

The Purpose of God-Given Authority

With this post, I’ll complete our walk through 2 Corinthians.  Paul summarizes some of his thoughts at the end.

Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.  For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.  We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection.
2 Corinthians 13:7-9

Paul reiterates the fact that he wants to see the church strong and thriving.  That should be the goal of any minister of the Gospel.  We’re not here to nitpick or find fault in everything that’s done.

A true leader wants to see God’s will accomplished through the lives of every believer.  So, through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, we should seek the advancement of all.

This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority — the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
2 Corinthians 13:10

Paul makes it clear that there’s a purpose to his God-given authority.  The reason the Lord has put Paul in this position is for the building up of the church.

I think there are Christian leaders who’ve forgotten this in our generation.  We have no authority for the tearing down of people.  Then we wonder why there’s no one following.

We need to walk in the grace of encouragement.  Then we’ll see the authority of Christ at work in us.

Paul gives this church some important advice.  It’s always easier for change to take place by being obedient to the Word of God.  The last thing we want is to have to endure a public rebuke.

It should be the same for us.  We need to be living a repentant lifestyle.  We should go to the Lord as soon as we feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

Too many times we sweep things under the carpet.  We wait until things get totally out of control.  Only then do we finally humble ourselves before the Lord.  Instead, we should be quick to repent.

Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints send their greetings.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:11-14

In the end, Paul gives them some final pieces of encouragement.  He wants the best for them.  It’s obvious that he can’t wait to see them and worship with them in person.

Question: In what ways do you use the authority that God has given you?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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6 Marks of a Spiritual Parent

Through Paul’s ministry, he gave birth to and established the church at Corinth.  In his second letter to them, he’s continuing his role as a spiritual parent.  We can gain some insight from this section of Scripture.

You may want to read 2 Corinthians 12:14-13:4 before you continue with this post.

Spiritual parents are not after your possessions.  They want your love and trust.

Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you.
2 Corinthians 12:14a

Don’t get me wrong.  They may need your support of their ministry.  But, they’ll never use guilt or shame to strong-arm you into giving.  They want to allow the Holy Spirit to direct your support.

Spiritual parents give up their lives for you.  They’re willing to go the distance.  They seek God’s will and will obediently follow His direction.  Many times that means doing things that are difficult or inconvenient.

Spiritual parents don’t exploit you.  This is a key point.  It’s all about attitude.  Why is that person in the ministry?  Some see it as an easy way to make a living.  Others see it as an opportunity to bring people up to a new level in Christ.

Spiritual parents want you strong and growing.  As a spiritual parent, there should be no sense of competition with those you’re leading.  The desire is that all should grow to their highest potential.  It doesn’t matter if you surpass me in some areas.

We’re all in this together.  We’re all working toward the same goal – to lift up the name of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual parents grieve over your sin.  This is something that many believers don’t understand.  They think that church leaders are in the clouds somewhere.  They don’t realize that true ministers are hurting because of the problems they see in their people.

Remember how Paul expressed it earlier in this letter.

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:28-29

Spiritual parents correct you.  This is one of those areas that we try to avoid.  How do you handle correction from a church leader?  It’s actually harder for the leader.  We don’t want to have to bring correction to someone we love.

The problem is that our love for you compels us to want you to get back on course.  We know what’s ahead if you continue in your error.  A true spiritual parent wants your highest and best.

All of these things are at work in true leaders.  That’s why it’s so important that we continue to pray for them daily.  We want their ministry to be a joyful experience and not a burden.

Question: In what ways is God leading you to be a spiritual parent?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, Relationships, The Church

 

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Burden of Ministry

As we continue through Second Corinthians, we see Paul beginning to do some boasting.  He felt the need to undermine the boasting of those who were simply masquerading as apostles of Christ.

This is a long section, so I don’t have the space to quote it all here.  You may want to read 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:6 before continuing.  Remember, this epistle was inspired by the Holy Spirit.  He must have wanted Paul to record these events for our encouragement in our struggles.

It’s amazing when you see all the difficulties that Paul had to endure.  That’s especially true when we realize that his imprisonment and shipwreck (in the book of Acts) is still ahead of him.

In spite of all these challenges, there’s something that sets him apart from the false ministers.  It’s his care for the churches under him.

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.  Who is weak, and I do not feel weak?  Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:28-29

This is the mark of a true minister.  It’s also something that the normal church member will never understand.  That’s the burden of ministry.

Most people look at the daily life of a pastor and say, “That’s a pretty easy job.  You get to study or visit people all day.  Then you make a speech on Sunday.  No problems.”

People think like that and never see the other side.  When a true pastor – a shepherd – sees his or her congregation, there’s an unseen burden that comes with it.

They see individuals that need to be cared for, healed, fed spiritually, and protected.  Many times those that are hurting are fighting against the very thing that will help them the most.  A true pastor is burdened by things that a large percentage of people will never know.

So often when a member is struggling with sickness or tragedy, the pastor feels helpless.  I sometimes feel inferior only being able to listen to them and say, “I’m praying for you.”  I could sometimes wish that God would give us a super-power that could miraculously wipe away every problem our people face.

Then there’s the sin problem.  It happens when our people are led into the wrong areas.  The word Paul uses here means to be trapped, like an animal in a snare.

So often I could see the choices one of my people was making.  I knew exactly where it would lead them.  I’ve even tried to lovingly warn them about it.

Too often I’ve heard the words, “I know what you’re saying, Pastor, but that won’t happen to me.  I know what I’m doing.”  Then, months or years later, they need help and spiritual counsel to put their lives back together.

No, I’m not complaining about it.  These things come with the territory of being a minister of Christ.  I tell you about them so that you’ll be faithful in praying for your leaders.  In that way, we’ll all benefit from a strong healthy ministry.

Question: How often do you pray specifically for your pastor and church leadership?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2020 in Leadership, Ministry, Prayer, The Church

 

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Stay Safe

We’re continuing through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He has mentioned some so-called “apostles” who have been traveling from church to church.

They have exalted themselves above other ministers.  They’ve even belittled Paul in an attempt to boost their own image.

Paul now gets to the heart of the matter about these people.

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.  It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.  Their end will be what their actions deserve.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15

In this simple paragraph, there are some sobering remarks.  We, as followers of Christ, need to be aware of these things.

The first thing Paul tells us is that there are false apostles who work at their deception.  Of course, anything worthwhile is going to have a corresponding counterfeit.

The word, masquerade, speaks of outward self-transformation.  These people can, at least on the outside, look, and act as a minister of Christ.  All the while, their goal is to fulfill their own desires.  They could be after money, fame, and/or a large following.

The Apostle Jude had a run-in with these types as well.  I like his description.

These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm — shepherds who feed only themselves.  They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted — twice dead.
Jude 12

These ministers have nothing to offer.  You leave their meetings feeling good, but you realize that your soul is dry and hungry.  That’s because they have no access to the bread of life.

Like I said previously, it’s sobering to realize that Satan can make himself outwardly look like an angel of light.  In the same way, false ministers can look like ministers of righteousness.

Usually, the righteousness that they push is self-righteousness.  That gets you nowhere, spiritually.

This calls for maturity and discernment for God’s people.  That’s especially true when it comes to the teachings we listen to on the radio, TV, or the internet.  We need to be asking the Holy Spirit to show us the motives behind the ministry.

That’s why I’m so insistent about believers being a part of a local congregation.  Yes, I’ve heard the excuses.  “You don’t know the pain I suffered from that church.”

I understand; I’ve been there.  The truth is that no one can hurt you more than family.  But, then again, no one can help you to heal better than family.

Being a part of a local church does open you up to possible hurt.  But it can also help to protect you from the spiritual wolves that are out to destroy you.

Question: How have you grown as a result of the local church?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2020 in Ministry, Spiritual Walk, The Church

 

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Free isn’t Always Free

In the closing chapters of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks about the other “apostles” (not the 12) that were going around at that time.  The church was comparing Paul with them.  Usually, it was not in a good way.

Paul was a man who understood his weaknesses.  He admitted that he wasn’t a trained speaker like some of these “super-apostles.”

He now talks about another point of comparison.

Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?
2 Corinthians 11:7

The word, sin, does not always mean something evil.  In this case, it simply means to miss the mark or make a mistake.

Paul asks them; was I wrong to bless you by preaching the Gospel to you without asking for your support.  According to some, it was because Paul wasn’t an apostle, and so had no right for support.

Paul was willing to humble himself.  By doing this he was able to bring the Corinthian church to a higher level in Christ as a result of his preaching.  But was it really free of charge?

I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you.  And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed.  I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.  As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine.
2 Corinthians 11:8-10

The simple fact is that support for the ministry has to come from somewhere.  It could come from the minister taking a second or third job.  It could come, as in this case, from other supporting churches.

As in all things, God is our ultimate source.  But He uses people to supply our needs.  It doesn’t always have to come from those being ministered to.

That’s why Paul said that he “robbed” other churches.  No, he didn’t take their money at sword point.  It was because they were giving him money with no direct service in return.  Of course, they received God’s blessing for their faithfulness.

This in itself proved that those accusers were wrong.  They were trying to show that Paul had no right to support.  All the while there were churches around the region that not only recognized the Apostle’s gifting but were willing to support it financially.

Why?  Because I do not love you?  God knows I do!  And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.
2 Corinthians 11:11-12

God has a way of exalting his faithful servants.  No one even knows the names of these other preachers.  But, because of his willingness to serve, Paul was honored in God’s kingdom.

Question: What is your area of service to God?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2020 in God's Provision, Ministry, Missions, The Church

 

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Using Authority

Some people use their authority as a weapon.  They try and force others to do their will.  Paul talks about what he sees as the correct use of the authority God gives to church leaders.

For even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than pulling you down, I will not be ashamed of it.
2 Corinthians 10:8

Apparently, there were those who vilified Paul’s ministry.  They looked at the fact that he didn’t force his authority on others as a weakness.  They falsely claimed that this was proof that he had no authority.

Of course, Paul was not the type of person who cared what others said about him.  He continued to walk in his calling before God.

He explained to the church that the reason God has given him authority was to build them up and not to tear them down.  Paul boldly declares that he won’t be ashamed of not being a spiritual bully.

I do not want to seem to be trying to frighten you with my letters.  For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.”  Such people should realize that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.
2 Corinthians 10:9-11

Even in his writings, Paul is not trying to force anyone to do his bidding.  But there is a greater ministry at work here.

There are obviously people who are jealous of Paul’s ministry.  So in order to feel better about themselves, they have to discredit Paul.

In their critique of Paul, they admit that his letters are powerful.  The words they use show that they see the weightiness and the force behind what he’s saying.

There’s a reason for this.  I don’t think that anyone knew it at the time, but God had anointed Paul to write New Covenant Scripture.  Of course, these critics could see that Paul’s letters were important.

The letters had to be powerful.  The Holy Spirit was empowering them to speak to the church for another couple of thousands of years.  Without question, they had a force behind them.

But in person, Paul was speaking to a congregation that he had given birth to in the spirit.  He wanted to nurture and love on them.  That’s why some despised Paul, saying that his in-person ministry was of no comparison to his letters.

What these people didn’t realize is that Paul had the authority of God to “clean house”.  He just preferred to use a gentler method.  He wanted those under his ministry to desire the changes that were necessary.

This should speak to us.  As church leaders, it should never be our goal to force those under us into submission.  We should be seeking to lead by example.  In that way, we’re portraying the true picture of Christ to those around us.

Question: What are your thoughts on leadership by example?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2020 in Anointing, Leadership, Ministry, The Church

 

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The Nature of Spiritual Warfare

We’re continuing our walk through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He has spoken very boldly to them on a variety of topics.

He knew that there were some critics in that church.  He knew what their response would be to some of his teachings.  He now wants to pre-empt their comments.

By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you — I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” when away!  I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world.
2 Corinthians 10:1-2

He gets right to the heart of the matter.  These people have a worldly mindset.  They view the church the same way they would see any secular organization.

It’s not the same.  The church is not an organization, but an organism – the body of Christ on earth.  As such, we live by a whole different set of standards.

That also puts us in the middle of a spiritual conflict between us and the world.

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
2 Corinthians 10:3

We’re in a battle. Not against people, but unseen spiritual forces. Do we really understand the nature of this conflict?

I’ve heard Christians use the term spiritual warfare in many different contexts. Does our teaching line up with Scripture? That’s what matters.

At one point the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and made a statement I found hard to accept. What I heard on the inside was, “Do you realize that there’s been no spiritual warfare for hundreds of years?”

How can this be true? I hear people say they’re doing spiritual warfare all the time. We sing about it. We preach about it.  Eventually, I was able to understand what the Spirit of God was trying to get across to me.

In the above verse, the phrase, wage war, literally means to serve in a military campaign. This is where our definition of spiritual warfare falls short. Our skirmishes are not warfare.

According to the Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary, war is “a contest between or among nations…carried on by force or with arms.” That’s where we miss it. War is between nations, not individuals.

For instance, what if I got upset about some things that Canada is doing (I’m not!). What if I then covered myself in weaponry, Rambo style, then walked to the border of Canada and declared that I was going to war against them. How long do you think that “war” would last?

As crazy as that sounds, that’s what many believers do in the spirit. Then they call what they’re doing spiritual warfare.

We need to realize that true spiritual warfare will not take place until the church wakes up from its sleep. Then, in the spirit, we must begin to pull down the strongholds of Satan. This is not just the job of one or two bold Christians. It’s something that the Lord is calling us all to take part in.

We can either spend our time complaining about our society or doing something that will make a difference. Time on our knees before God will bring great change on the earth. Prayer, fasting, intercession, and prayer in the spirit are what it will take to bring revival to our land.

Question: What’s your part in this spiritual battle?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2020 in Ministry, Prayer, Spiritual Warfare, The Church

 

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Principles of Giving

Paul is continuing to coach the Corinthian church in the giving of offerings.  It’s good advice for us as well.

There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the saints.
2 Corinthians 9:1

The first thing we see is that giving is a part of our servanthood.  Jesus said that if you want to be great in God’s kingdom, then you must be the servant of all.  (Mark 10:42-45)

A part of my service to the kingdom is fulfilled as I use my money to help others.  I might not be able to be physically present to help them.  But by giving my finances, I can help to relieve some of their burdens.

For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.  But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be.
2 Corinthians 9:2-3

What you’ll find is that some believers are quicker to give than others.  Some people take a little longer to reach that decision.  That’s okay, as long as we’re all obedient to the Lord’s prompting.

The fact is, those who are quicker to give are an encouragement to those who need more time to think about it.  When they see the zeal of others, it stirs them to action.  Then, the blessing of service increases.

The word, eagerness, in the above passage is literally forward-passioned.  You are passionate about seeing God’s kingdom advance.  When you give, it’s not simply about the money.  It’s moving in answer to the call of God to advance His work.

For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we — not to say anything about you — would be ashamed of having been so confident.  So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.
2 Corinthians 9:4-5

Finally, we must always be prepared to give.  Be open to the Holy Spirit.  Let Him move your heart.

At one point I was stopped at a red light and I saw a panhandler coming towards me.  I felt the Spirit urging me to give. As I fumbled with my seatbelt trying to get to my wallet, eventually the light turned green before I could get the money out.

I felt bad about it.  Now I make sure that I have some money in the compartment between the seats so that if it happens again, I’ll be ready.

We need to be people who want to serve not just with our time, but our money as well.

Question: How prepared are you when the Spirit prompts you to give?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 

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Chosen for Service

We’re continuing to look at the offering that Paul is collecting for the needy churches of Judea.  He’s now informing the Corinthian church, who exactly will be taking this gift to Jerusalem.

This is found in 2 Corinthians 8:16-24.  You may want to read that passage before continuing with this post.

In this section of Scripture, we see three men.  One of them we know well, the other two are anonymous.  But they all possess a high degree of integrity.

I want to look at the way Paul describes them.  It should be something that we all strive to be like.  They definitely exemplify those who church leaders look for to advance in their calling.

The first of these men is Titus.  He was probably the leader of the group.  He was saved and trained up under Paul’s ministry.  It’s obvious that Paul treated him as a son.

One of the major parts of Titus’ attitude was a willingness to do anything Paul asked of him.

For Titus not only welcomed our appeal, but he is coming to you with much enthusiasm and on his own initiative.
2 Corinthians 8:17

As I read through Paul’s Corinthian letters, it seems to me that this church was not an easy one to work with.  In many regards, they seemed pretty arrogant about themselves.

“We don’t need your help.  We know what we’re doing.”

Yet, in spite of all that, Titus was enthusiastic to go to them as Paul’s representative.  This earnest willingness to do whatever it takes is a great asset in any ministry.

Next, we have an unknown brother.

And we are sending along with him the brother who is praised by all the churches for his service to the gospel.
2 Corinthians 8:18

This is someone who most people praised for his service.  This means that his service to the Gospel was an obvious thing.  He could always be counted on to help out.  It goes on to say that all the churches wanted him in particular to be a part of this “offering detail”.

Finally, there was a third man that was a part of this team.  Look at Paul’s description.

In addition, we are sending with them our brother who has often proved to us in many ways that he is zealous, and now even more so because of his great confidence in you.
2 Corinthians 8:22

He has a big plus; he’s passionate.  That’s what the word, zealous means.  The church needs people of passion.

We need to get emotional about those things that stir the heart of God.  When this man thought about the need in Judea, he was moved with compassion.  Then he heard about the fact that there were Greek churches who wanted to help out financially.  This moved him to action.

It’s leaders like this who should be examples to us of how to live our best for Christ.

Question: What leaders have affected you the most in your walk with Christ?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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The Hard Truth of Ministry

I’m now getting back to my view of Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church.  He’s continuing his description of how he’s affected by the call to minister the Gospel.

…through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:8-10

This is the side of ministry that not many people want to talk about.  It’s the price that you pay for obeying the call to preach the Good News.  At times it can be tough, but it’s definitely worth it.

The apostle talks about glory and dishonor.  That’s hard to deal with.  Most Christians don’t ever see it.  They sometimes view ministers as some sort of celebrity.

When I’m out in the world, interacting with society, it’s a different story.  When meeting new people, they usually ask what you do for a living.  They have a normal response to a doctor, teacher, or plumber.

When you tell them you’re a pastor or minister you get mixed reactions.  Sometimes they’re positive about it.  There are other times when they react as if I told them I was an illegal arms dealer.

The whole dynamic of the conversation changes.  They begin to apologize if they think they said something inappropriate.  If someone new joins the group, they’re warned, “He’s a pastor.  Watch what you say.”

Paul also understands about good and bad reports.  As a minister, you and your family live under a microscope.  Everyone watches everything you do; expecting you to live perfectly like Jesus did at all times.

Then, when they find out you’re human like everyone else, they write you off as an imposter.  In one sense you need to grow a “thick skin” to people’s attitudes.  While at the same time, you must keep an open heart to love everyone you meet.

That’s all a part of what Jesus talked about with His disciples.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
John 10:11

Many people expect a lot from their ministers.  They look for encouragement, hope, healing, and counsel.  What they don’t realize is that ministers need those same things.  Usually, it means that they need to be very proactive or they’ll end up burning out and leaving the ministry.

Please don’t think that I have a bad view of ministering for the Lord.  I wouldn’t choose anything else.  The rewards are overwhelming.

My point is this: never cease praying for your pastors, ministers, and church leaders.  They need encouragement and support just like anyone else.  Seek to bring them joy in the ministry.

Question: What do you see as the rewards and challenges of the ministry?

© 2020 Nick Zaccardi

 
 

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