What are you trying to produce through your ministry? Perhaps you are an elder or minister in a local church: how would you describe the aim of your ministry? Perhaps you are a small group leader, a Sunday School teacher, or a biblical counselor—what is the purpose of your ministry?
Here’s one way to think about it: What’s your goal for those whom you disciple?
This is an important question—not just for counselors, but for all those engaged in gospel ministry. And of course there are various biblical ways to answer this, but in this brief post I want to point your attention to Paul’s words to Timothy: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
In contrast to the ‘different doctrine’ of false teachers that produces aimless speculations (cf. 1 Timothy 1:3-4), the goal of Paul’s charge is the production of love. In other words, Paul’s ministry aim—his ministry bull’s eye, if you will—was love. Ministry’s aim is love, and thus when love has been produced in those you minister to—your ministry purpose has been realized.
Love is a strong affection and regard for another; genuinely Christian love is seen in a willingness to forfeit my desires for the good others. In other words, true love is sacrificial. A disciple or counselee starts to learn how to love when she starts to seek the good of others around her—instead of being self-centred she becomes other-person-centred.
This may seem obvious, but prayerfully pause and ponder this: consider your next ministry activity. Perhaps its tonight’s small group, or your sermon on Sunday, or your next counseling session. Are you praying that God would produce love in the one(s) to whom you are ministering? Why not pray for that, right now?
The Source of Love
Of course, this raises a question: where does love come from? Thankfully, the apostle Paul identifies the three areas from which true love issues: a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Let’s briefly consider each.
Loves comes from a pure heart: the heart is the “source of a person’s psychological life… with special emphasis upon thoughts.”  In other words: a person with a pure heart has holy thoughts, desires and motives. As a result, they perform holy actions. A person with a clean heart loves God and loves people. Gospel ministry produces people who seek the good of others, not to get from others selfishly, but to give to others selflessly.
What strikes me about this, is the place of depth from which love must proceed. The heart is the deepest part of you. Love is to be true and genuine, pure and clean, not superficial and selfish but motivated by an authentic desire to bless others even when there is no personal advantage for doing so. Love comes from a pure heart.
A Good Conscience
‘Conscience’ points towards self-awareness, “it is a testimony given to oneself, and then passed on to others.” Your conscience helps you identify right from wrong, what is moral from what is immoral, and thus is a gift from God. Clearly, the conscience is ‘good’ when it is able to accurately discern right from wrong—when it agrees with and has been molded by God’s Word.
Initially, many folk you come into contact with may have a distorted conscience, a weak conscience, or a desensitized conscience. But as you engage in ministry with them, teaching them God’s Word, their conscience can be renewed. As their conscience becomes shaped by Scripture, it becomes ‘good’—it becomes morally excellent, attuned to spiritual reality, their conscience starts to see God, life, decisions and relationships from a biblical perspective.
Of course, this has strong moral overtones—a truly Christian ministry helps folk think in categories of good and bad, right and wrong, truth and error. Genuinely Christian ministry produces disciples of moral excellence, those who love others in morally excellent ways, from a good conscience.
Finally, we see that love issues not only from a pure heart and a good conscience, but also from a faith without hypocrisy.
A Sincere Faith
Love arises out of a sincere faith: an authentic, personal belief in the Triune God. In other words, those with a sincere faith are not actors; they have not put a mask on, they are not faking faith, pretending to believe in God. No—there is a sincerity and authenticity to their beliefs; they live and love from the inside out.
Again, this challenges us who are seeking to make disciples. Are those we are discipling demonstrating a sincere faith? Or are they merely faking it to please us? Are they merely ‘jumping through hoops’ in order to secure our approval or some other benefit? Are they loving God and others from an authentic and personal faith?
In conclusion, the primary goal of ministry “is not the imparting of information or merely the increase of knowledge, but the production of love. That love looks outward at others with good motives (“a pure heart”), looks inward at self in self-judgment (“a good conscience”) and looks upward at God without ulterior motives (“a sincere faith”).” May God be pleased to use us, even us, to produce love in others as we help them connect the truth of His Word to the details of their lives.
Join the Conversation:
1. Why is love the proper outcome by which a teaching and counseling ministry must be evaluated?
2. How might an impure heart defile any ‘acts of love’ arising from it?
3.Why is a “good conscience” a necessary prerequisite for true love?
4.How would an insincere faith result in a failure in Christian love?
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 320.
John A. Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors (The Woodlands, TX: Kress Christian Publications, 2009), 47.
 John A. Kitchen, The Pastoral Epistles for Pastors, 48.
 Taken and adapted from Kitchen, 48.