By Keith Johnson

Keith Johnson is a native of Pennsylvania, and is an ordained minister and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (2006) where he received his Theological Masters degree (Th.M). Keith pastors a church in the Villages, Florida, while his wife, Patti, serves on the Care for Pastors team. They have three grown children. When not serving, they escape to their favorite place on earth; the beach.

    Built God Tough: What Makes for a Strong Ministry

    Wednesday, October 11, 2023

    The slogan, “Built Ford Tough” first appeared in the late 1970’s. With just a few words the Ford Motor Company said what every buyer needed to know. Ford trucks are built to last. As a truck guy, I have owned more than a few pick-ups. Like many buyers I can get caught up with the performance and premium features. My greatest distraction is horsepower; the more the better. I also like all the creature comforts; leather seats, great sound system, power seats, 20” rims, did I mention horsepower? But there is one thing I will not equivocate on, and that is dependability. I want a truck I can depend on. One that lasts, one that can take some abuse and keep running. Today a lot of attention is on looks and performance, but they pale in comparison to reliability. Bottom line, the most important feature is dependability. I think you will agree.

    When it comes to ministry, I find the same thing. The spotlight rests on performance and presentation. Our congregations have ready access to some of the most gifted speakers. The internet, apps and podcasts have raised the bar and put a lot of attention on presentation and performance. The expectations are high. The problem with this is that we pastors can start to compare ourselves forgetting we have something they cannot offer to our churches. Namely, availability and dependability. If we forget that, then we are forgetting how crucial we as shepherds are to our flock. Presence trumps performance. You may be the best preacher, but if you don’t show up, it doesn’t matter how good you are.

    I was reminded of this in one of my senior classes in seminary. With graduation one month away we all looked forward to getting on with our careers. With four years of hard work behind us we had all the answers, well, most of them anyway. Or so some of us thought. I’ll never forget the professor’s words in that final class. He told us the most important thing you can do and he stopped. He repeated. The most important thing you can do is . . . show up. Really? That’s the secret? He wasn’t discounting our education. He wasn’t discounting our skills. What he was saying in so many words was knowledge and skill don’t amount to anything if you don’t show up. Whether it’s a hospital visit, a worship service, a funeral, marriage counseling or some other counseling the most important thing you can do is show up. Presence trumps performance. And that is what you and I do day in and day out. We show up. We care. We work hard. Don’t ever forget that. So, the next time you are tempted to quit and move on, wait. If God tells you to leave, you leave. If He tells you to stay, stay put and watch Him work. And when things are tough, remember we may not be built Ford tough, but we are built God tough.

    You can do this.

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