The heart of ministry

The most effective life changing ministry happens when two people who genuinely care for one another connect.  The best situation is when both will serve each other sacrificially. This isn’t always the case.  Often sacrifice goes more one way than the other.  This is normal because one has to take the time to earn trust through sincere acts of service.  Jesus is our example.  The willingness to love as Jesus loved, to lay down ones life for a friend, to risk in order to help is the mark of true ministry.

This kind of ministry happens best in a sincere community.  In a place where people have an opportunity to be real, to grow in grace together, to discover their gifts and talents and use them to care for one another.  To be the body as Paul describes in 1Cor 12.

This kind of ministry is the hardest because it requires that your life be put on call.  It doesn’t require excessive demands on your time and resources but it goes far deeper than a commitment to attend a meeting or two.  It requires that one open up their home, not just their wallet.  It means going out of your way to show you care and deliberating passing up the things of this world that distract us from one another.

People change when they know they are loved.  It is in the trials of life that we find the best opportunities to help people understand truth and grace.  If we have no one we really trust, no one we can talk through our failures with then we are truly alone.  It doesn’t matter what level of commitment we have to a group or organization. 

One of the dangers of conventional church ministry is that in the minds of many singing some songs, listening to a sermon and attending a small group is the majority of church.  While there is some value in doing all these things they don’t get you to the point where you can feel real love and encounter life changing ministry.  It is almost impossible to be honest about the deepest issues in your life in a large group. A small group is better but people still find it difficult to open up in sensitive areas of their life.

Many small groups are just another event which at their very core function much like Sunday service.  They are primarily leader led with only modest participation from the group .  People find it very difficult to be transparent and open.  The best small groups go beyond this, embrace broad participation where people are given freedom to use spiritual gifts.  These groups touch people on relevant issues in their lives.  These types of groups do all a small group can do but we need more than what a small group can deliver.

We need connections with people that are forged with a deep level of trust and commitment.  Relationships that can endure flaws and mistakes and even hurt feelings.  Relationships with people that can extend grace and unconditional love when we reveal the dark corners of our soul.

One of the reasons why so many people find their way out of conventional churches is that they are lonely and disconnected in a sea of activity.  For a long time they believed that sitting and listening was participating in community.  They believed that being in a small group was being supported and loved.  They come to sense a huge disconnect. 

I’m in a community but I’m all alone.  I’m in a small group but I’m going through the motions.  I recognize there is more I could do, more I could try but I have tried for 20 years and I realize that so much of what I do is empty.  I know I’m supposed to be committed and be a part of the church but I am surrounded by church and I don’t know if I’m a part of anything of substance. 

So they leave.  Some people leave and give up on faith altogether.  Others start looking for those connections they longed for and find them.  While they aren’t part of any formal organization they discover an essential aspect of church life they have only had small tastes of up until now.  It can be rightly said that these folks are missing out on other essential aspects of church life. However they are getting the an element of church life that is no less essential and powerfully transformational. 

It is sad that these people are trashed from the pulpit so often.  I’ve seen it.  So many of the people who filter out the back door of churches are not seeking to leave the church but to find it.  So many of those who sit the pews cheering on those preachers don’t realize they are missing it.

The heart of ministry is to be Jesus to one another.  Too often we overload ourselves with activities that have value but have so captured our attention that they insulate us from each other.  We avoid the heart of ministry because it is too hard.  We can’t flee from commitment to each other, we must give grace when we are harmed, and we must love when it is inconvenient.  Becoming like Jesus is a sacrifice that most of us are unwilling to make and that is why we lack so much.

  1. #1 by Jeri on March 2, 2008 - 11:20 pm

    You are really on a roll. I have loved reading your blogs of late because they really express so well so much of what we have been experiencing and learning about.

  2. #2 by Dave King on March 3, 2008 - 9:47 pm


  3. #3 by Kelly on March 5, 2008 - 10:04 pm

    LT: Your last line is ringing in my ears… well said.

  4. #4 by Paul Johnston on January 14, 2009 - 11:24 am

    Thank you.

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