It is possible to think about ministry in a way that is very different from what is recorded in Jesus’ life and work. Such thoughts can be unintentionally propagated within Christian contexts. Most of us don’t intend to veer from the beautiful simplicity of loving God and other people, but false thinking can easily gain a foothold in anyone’s life.
Over the years I’ve picked up on attitudes or heard conversations that describe ministry something like this:
“If a large enough number of people can see the important Christian stuff I’m doing and deem it worthy, then I will be considered a person in the ministry.
“If I can accomplish a list of tasks in a really Christian way, then I’m doing ministry.”
“If someone gives me a microphone and everyone else has to listen, then I’m doing really well in ministry.”
“If I have a position in a Christian organization or a Christian job title, then I’m in ministry.”
“If I’m participating in any helpful activity inside of a building called a church, I’m doing ministry.”
“If I am in charge of a Christian activity or leading others at a Christian event, whether it’s five or five hundred people, then I’m super valuable in ministry.”
“If I wear a Christian T-shirt, play Christian music, and say enough Christian things, my ordinary job can perhaps be considered ministry.”
It’s great to have a job in a Christian organization. It’s also great to have a job somewhere else. It’s good to do helpful things whether it’s inside a building called a church or not. Acts of service may get you some recognition—or not. It’s fine to be labeled the official leader of something, but it’s also fine to be a leader in your life even if it comes without a label. Sharing the good news of Jesus can be done in front of a crowd or in a quiet place with a friend. It’s just as holy to have dinner with a neighbor and find ways to serve her as it is to lead a Bible study where your church meets, because in both situations God is at work in the lives of people.
Ministry— serving God and people in Jesus’ name— has nothing to do with whether we are recognized. It’s not about whether we participate in more “sacred” than “secular” activities. It’s so much more than whether our vocation carries a title, like pastor. Ministry has more to do with people. Actually, ministry has everything to do with people.
God and the people He created will last forever. Most other things won’t.
I want my “success” in life to be my impact in the lives of people. Not necessarily the number of people, but in the impact God has in others’ lives through me, starting at home, then reaching into my community. I want to constantly be learning how to love God and others well.
Over the years I’ve noticed a difference between doing for God and resting in God. In my life, doing for God feels like striving to no avail. It’s trying to be good enough for Him and validated by people, usually through doing lots of Christian things and hoping it’s enough. The motivation is fear. The result is something that’s all about me. Then there is resting in God– living life from a place of trust in His unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, and love. When this is my starting point, I am free to stop striving for God and others’ approval. His approval is what I need and I already have it. I am free to love and serve people in the knowledge I am already secure and validated by Him. There’s no need to strive to satisfy a compulsion to earn favor or be considered successful. The motivation for life and service springs from freedom.
When I was a new believer in Christ, I often prayed for God to “give me a ministry.” I tripped over all kinds of people on the way to “ministry.” I was looking to do Christian stuff that felt and looked important. Surely that was what mattered– being considered successful in the Christian culture. But God was showing me ways to be with people. Some of these people were friends who wanted to spend time with me. Some were fellow students in my classes, frustrated with difficult assignments I could have helped with. There were acquaintances who needed listeners or neighbors who needed help in their yards. At my part time job , there were co-workers who wanted to talk while we stocked shelves together. Even people I saw a few times a week in a building labeled “church” needed encouragement and help, just like me. Lots of people in my community believed in Christ and some didn’t. But what they had in common was that each of them was created in God’s image and had needs. Looking back, I’m thankful for the occasions I didn’t miss out on resting in God and serving people.
-I’ll share the second half of this post next week –
Thanks for reading!
©2018Chrissy Winslow – All Rights Reserved
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Serving God in the Ordinary, Ken Barnes