The Soul Question

The Soul Question

What is your ministry context? This is a topic of various projects and conversations for me lately. As ministers, this question is insider jargon to describe where we work and what we do. Were we to describe our context we might talk about the geographic location, socio-economic status, age, race, gender, and culture of the people for whom we provide leadership.

The answer to this question shapes a ministry’s primary aim, strategy, and goals. Who are you trying to reach? What are their needs? What is their language? What are their fears, values and priorities?

For leaders, this is really the question.

Dr. Brady Bryce, in talking about “ministry context,” goes beyond age, race, or gender and says the most important ministry context is the soul of the minister. [1] At first, this sounds like an overstatement. The most important? Seems a little extreme. And how does one even describe the soul? What are the needs, languages, and fears of the soul?

These “soul questions” are troublesome because the answers cannot be organized into systems, discovered in vision meetings or outlined on a whiteboard.

These “soul questions” invite us to:

  • Talk less and listen more

  • Do less and pray more

  • Promote ourselves less and humble ourselves more

These “soul questions” force us to slow down, recalibrate, and maybe even to stop and turn around.

The soul is the most important ministry context. [2] When are we going to realize that God does not need our ministry? He longs for our souls. Our primary aim as leaders is to allow God to fill our souls to the point of overflowing. It is in the overflow that ministry occurs.

What is my ministry context? Who am I trying to reach? Me. I am trying to reach me. I need to be reminded that ministry is allowing God to do what he longs to do first in me and then, and only then, through me.

Leaders, we must discover the landscape of the most important ministry context—the soul.

Today ask yourself the “soul questions.”

  • What does my soul want to say to God?

  • What are the needs of my soul? Are they being neglected or met?

  • What words would I use to describe my soul?

And together we will reclaim depth, passion, and abundance in our ministries.


[1] This is found in a lecture in the “Contexts of Ministry" course. Dr. Bryce points this out in a variety of ways and readings throughout a variety of his courses in the Graduate School of Theology. Something that I am eternally grateful for.

[2] Great spiritual leaders like Barbara Brown Taylor, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson and Ruth Haley Barton have been telling us this for decades.

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