Picture yourself in ministry. What image do you see? What does it look like? Pause for a moment and really think about the picture you see. What is the main concept of ministry behind your visualization?
If you’re like most of us, you saw yourself doing something for others. And you’d be right. Ministry is service. Like Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, ministry focuses on caring for and about others. And also like the example of Jesus washing feet, it is about so much more. If it were only about helping others, ministry would simply be good customer service. But true ministry is much more than that.
In fact, Christian ministry is less about what you do than who you are. And it is less about who you are than who Jesus is.
The essence of Christian ministry is Christ himself. Effective ministry points others to Jesus. It is God, not his disciples, who softens hearts, woos, and guides the wayward home. It is the Holy Spirit, building the body of Christ, who teaches and trains us in the way we should go. We are His vessels, filled to overflowing with the love of Jesus, and poured out into the lives of others.
Effective ministry works not by our strength, but by His Spirit. It begins and ends in Christ, bringing glory not to us, but to God. True ministry is about loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourself. It is serving God by serving others.
Ministry is less what we do than who we are. And who are we? We are the ones over whom God sings for joy. We are those for whom Christ died. You and I are those whose inheritance is Christ Himself. We are His beloved. We are in Christ. At it’s widest application, we are all called to minister to others. Ministry is not accomplished by us doing things for God, but by God working through us to accomplish His purposes. While we are all called to minister, it is also true that God calls some to minister in a specific capacity, whether vocationally or otherwise.
No matter the ministry, recognizing Christ as the wellspring of life from which we draw is the key to our effectiveness. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
How much can you do in your own strength? How many souls can you save or lives change? Fill in the blank: Apart from Jesus I can do _________________. Say it out loud.
Matthew 19:26 puts it another way: Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” He was talking of salvation, the most impossible thing in the universe apart from Christ. If God can save you, God can use you. He wants to use you. Jot this verse down and stick it on your mirror. Write it in lipstick if you must!
God is searching for hearts surrendered to the Lordship of Christ. If we want to be involved in the lives of others, if we want to be used of God, we must first be obedient. Luke 16:10-11 says, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” Now Luke is discussing worldly versus true wealth in this chapter, but the principle applies. If you are not trustworthy to be faithful and obedient in your own life, how can you lead others to do so?
There is a saying I like to repeat often in various forms: “You cannot lead others where you yourself have not gone.” Spiritual growth occurs at the intersection of faith and obedience. Sometimes we want the joy of ministry without the hard work of self-control. Do you want to teach God’s commands to others? Do you want to someday hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”? Then begin by following God’s commands yourself.
Now before you go off the deep end of false guilt, remember this: Philippians 1:6 says, ”that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” None of us has yet been perfected. You are being transformed, even as you read this, into the image and likeness of Christ. As you and I grow and mature in our walk with the Lord, we are better able to partner with God in His work.
Now picture yourself in ministry once more. What do you see?
I see a pitcher of cool, clear water being poured over dry, cracked ground. I am the pitcher. God is the one who pours. How about you? What do you see? I’d love it if you’d share the image in your mind’s eye in the comments section below.
In my next post we will begin to explore some of the basic skills needed to improve our ability to serve others. Anybody have a wash basin and towel?