To be successful in God’s eyes, it is essential that a minister understands the goal that God has set before him. If he doesn’t understand his goal, he has no way of gauging if he has succeeded or failed in reaching it. He may think he has succeeded when he has actually failed. And that is a great tragedy. He is like a first-place runner who jubilantly sprints across the finish line of an 800-meter race, basking in his victory as he raises his hands before the shouting crowds, not realizing that he was actually competing in a 1600-meter race. Misunderstanding his goal has guaranteed his failure. Thinking he has won has assured his loss. In his case the saying is certainly true: “The first shall be last.”
Most ministers have some kind of specific goal that they often refer to as their “vision.” It is what they uniquely strive to accomplish, based on their specific calling and gifting. Everyone’s gifting and calling is unique, whether it be to pastor a church in a certain city, evangelize a certain region, or teach certain truths. But the God-given goal to which I’m referring is general and applies to every minister. It is the big vision. It should be the driving general vision behind every unique vision. But too often, it is not. Not only do many ministers have specific visions that do not harmonize with God’s general vision, some have specific visions that actually work against God’s general vision. I certainly did at one time, even though I was pastoring a growing church.
So what is the general goal or vision that God has given every minister? We begin to find the answer in Matthew 28:18-20, a passage so familiar to us that we often miss what it is saying. Let’s consider it verse by verse:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).
Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that His Father had granted Him supreme authority. Of course, the Father’s intention was (and is) that Jesus be obeyed, as is the case any time the Father gives someone authority. But Jesus is unique in that His Father gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth, not just a limited authority, as He at times gives to others. Jesus is Lord.
This being so, any person who doesn’t relate to Jesus as Lord is not relating to Him rightly. Jesus, more than anything else, is Lord. That is why He is referred to as “Lord” over 600 times in the New Testament. (He is only mentioned as Savior 15 times.) That is why Paul wrote, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Rom. 14:9, emphasis added). Jesus died and came back to life for the purpose of reigning as Lord over people.
 Throughout this teaching, I refer to ministers using the masculine pronoun he, purely for the sake of consistency and because the majority of vocational ministers, such as pastors, are men. I am convinced from Scripture, however, that God calls women to vocational ministry, and I know quite a few with very effective ministries. This is the topic of the chapter entitled, Women in Ministry.