Sunday, March 2, 2008

Rethinking 'Ministry'

In this day and age of so many ‘ministries’ in different sizes, shapes and styles such as small, big, mega, over-sized, contemporary, traditional etc, It would be fair enough to start a discussion of 'ministry' by looking at what Jesus Himself said about it while He was on the earth.

Disciples asked, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)

What?

No way! How can that be true? It is so simple to be true! We don't believe that. We believe that we have a "calling" to 'do', 'go', 'preach' and make disciples. We know about the 'great commission'. What if ‘just believing’ leads to passivity? Don't we know that the 'harvest is plenty but workers are few'? We believe that we have to ‘initiate’ things and start everything with 'prayer' and we ask god to 'help' us to do it. God, this is ‘your’ ministry, bless this!

Jesus said, "Apart from me you can do nothing".

What?

No.... it can't be true. My seminary can't be that wrong! My professor can't be wrong that he taught me to develop my 'leadership skills". Among many of my skills rated, my "leadership skill" came to 10 out 10. I am capable of ‘controlling’ any big congregations. I am really worth doing something. I know Greek. I know Hebrews. I am a scholar. I was taught that we can 'achieve' many things by implementing a "five fold" ministry plan with a ‘5 year vision’ and a ‘mission statement’. I have marketing skills, if not I will hire highly educated marketing executives. I will emphasize the many programs what we have such as childcare, counseling, prayer club, indoor gym, free coffee etc. If I still can’t attract people I will advertise my ministry in ‘Christianity Today’. At any cost I will build, build and build. I will spend sleepless nights thinking how to raise money. I will work 12-16 hours a day and I don’t care if I can’t spend time with my family because I am in an important work called ‘God work’. I am trained to be a ‘Christian professional’. I have been instructed to use the verse from Malachi to put people under the pressure of guilt to bring money to the offering plates. I can do a lot of things ‘apart from Him’ and I am pretty sure that verse doesn’t mean that way in Greek.

Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is within you".

What?

That is a foreign idea. I thought kingdom of God is a ‘field’ where there are many big buildings, auditoriums and usually a big tall building with a cross on top of it. People working diligently to build it and God shows up their on Sunday mornings sometimes even on Wednesdays. The ‘success’ of such kingdom is determined by the headcount of people and the 'quality' of the congregates.

Jesus said, "I will build my church".

What?

No, we don't believe that. He will build His church? Then, what am I here for? I know He said that while He was on the earth; now that He is not here so I have to do the ‘building’. I need a handful of highly educated outstanding professional ministers who can help me doing this. I will start collecting their resumes, offering ‘industry standard’ salaries, medical benefits, yearly performance reviews and promotions.
But I will still ‘own’ the ministry so that my son can 'inherit' all the ‘assets’ in the future when he is old enough and ready.

My thoughts:

I think the word "believe" is so commonly used by so many people to mean so many things, that now we don't even believe in "believing". We have come to a point that we don't like the simplicity of Jesus's statement, 'the work of the ministry is believing in me'.

Why are we so boastful in the fact that we have the so called so many skills? Jesus said, "for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Are we ready to put down our education, degrees etc and may be learn something about little children? Children believe in the word "believe". One of the way my daughter used to play with me when she was about 3 years old is that she would jump into my hands from the kitchen counter-top. She enjoyed it so much that she would just keep giggling all the time. Sometimes she would jump even before I get ready to hold her. She had a lot of fun. Though sometimes my hands hurt, I enjoyed it because of the trust she put in me. She trusted the strength of my hands. She didn't have so many "What if" questions such as, "what if I hit the floor?", "what if I slips out my Dad's hands?", "what if my Dad is not ready?". She lived the 'present moment'; she didn't complicate it and her motivation was trust. Can we learn the basic principle of trusting by looking at the little kids?

Many people get into Christian ministry when they are faced with a question posed by many preachers, "What if I will stand in front of God with empty hands"? What if I don't have any rewards?
I personally believe the greatest reward we could ever get is the righteousness of Christ which we already have. I wouldn't imagine someone standing in front of Jesus and brag about the things they did for Him. The life we live is His life. The love we have in our heart is His love. The fruits we bear is produced by Him. So what is there to boast about?

Is it time to put our religious masks down and live a real life in the essence of the New Covenant message (walking by faith)? Are we ready to join Apostle Paul, 'It is no longer I..."?

I don't feel like pledging money to the building fund or the church planting. My heart is somewhere else. I am no more moved by the big crowds, mega churches or even the wide spreading of Christianity. I am interested only in a genuine, real, brutally honest, authentic, practical life of faith people live.

What if the way the gospel to be proclaimed is not by planting churches or by starting ministries?

What if we are not in need of problem solving Christian professionals but people who trust God and simply walk by faith?

What if walking by faith is breaking the norm of all the existing concepts of Christian ministry?

What if the "step of faith" is not about planting a church? But it is simply leaping into the hands of Father where I am going to be safely held and if necessary used by Him? What if I don't have to be a professional in the church industry to do the 'works of God'? How about resting in the fact that , if God wants to accomplish anything through me, he would initiate it in due time and all I need to do is respond. What if the concept of ministry is nothing but living in an attitude that the members of my body is available to God for His purposes. How about taking all the presumptions away and jump into the 'risk' of all sufficiency of Christ?

9 comments:

Nicole's Godblog said...

Hey Bino!

I have thought about this too. I have often thought 'ministry' was like profit and the Christians were the salesmen. It always seemed like all those meetings to build ministry and go out into the streets and peoples houses was like a way to 'take' and convert. Even if our hearts were right or we thought we were pleasing Father by doing this, it still seemed really shallow and a fake way to reach out to others. We would go around to the poor neighborhoods and hand out fliers and posters about how much God loved them and we would envite them to our local congregations, but still it seemed like a salespitch to get them 'converted'. I hated how it felt! Then each group would meet back at the 'church' and discuss the outcome of their ministry.

My heart cries for exactly what you said Bino!

"I am interested only in a genuine, real, brutally honest, authentic, practical life of faith people live."


Its exciting to actually see what real true ministry looks like, and what is so good about it is we don't have to go make it happen, but Father usually opens the doors for it to happen where ever we may be. It always goes so much smoother when 'ministry' isn't forced and planned!

Great Post...

In Freedom, Nicole!

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Hi Nicole,

One of the reason I wrote this post was to convince myself! I am often so tempted to do/join/start a ministry. I don't know what kind of ministry, but what I have in my heart is a ministry which sets people free. The place where I stand in terms of understanding the grace of God today, is because of few such ministries such as People to People, Grace Walk etc. But (a Big but), I don't want to initiate it, I want to only respond. My prayer today is to be available for God for His good purposes and I am convinced that it may or may not necessarily be in the form of a big ministry. I think at the present moment we are all in different mission fields where God could use us such as sharing the love of Christ with a co-worker, neighbor etc. From our sight it is 'small', but I think helping someone who hurts inside to see the Grace and unconditional love of God is one one of the least but most important thing we could do.
I am not against any ministries, big or small, as long they preach the true gospel which sets people free.

I want to learn to trust and 'to offer my body as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God— which is the spiritual act of worship'. Isn't it nothing but being available to God? At this moment, I don't think God want me to lose my sleep, being under stress, raise funds to convert people. In the future if He wants me to lose my sleep in order to proclaim the truth of His love, I would be doing it joyfully.

Thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts!

bob said...

Hi Bino

Have you read "Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical" by Shane Claiborne or "Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity" by Jim Palmer (one of the best books I have ever read).

This is where you (and a lot of the rest of us) are at. I highly recommend them to you. They will answer a lot, if not all, of your questions.

In wide open spaces
Bob

Joel Brueseke said...

Bino... You've said a lot here, and it's not hard at all for me to digest any of it because I am of one mind with you on this! And just as you told Nicole that one reason you wrote this was for yourself, I am also very encouraged by it.

Here you've reminded us that our "ministry" is to believe. Our ministry is not to build the kingdom of God, but rather to trust Jesus as He Himself builds His church - which is really a beautiful bride, consisting of real people, not buildings, numbers, programs, etc.

Four years ago (January 2004) God whispered "graceroots.org" into my ear (more of a "thought" than an audible voice). In short, I had been praying for some sort of way in which to share things that I write. I came across a great deal on internet hosting and as I was thinking about perhaps creating a website I prayed, "What should I call it?" Immediately graceroots.org popped into mind. I spent some time questioning if it was really the Lord, but in the end I saw that it was Him.

"Grace Roots" is something I never would have come up with on my own. I wasn't seeking after a "ministry" but rather simply an outlet to write about grace. I'm still not seeking after a ministry - and I say all that to say this. "Grace Roots," whatever it is meant to be, is not my ministry. If a "big ministry" (speaking in human terms) comes out of it, then it's the Lord's doing. If it simply remains the name of a website and blog involving a handful of friends, then it's the Lord's doing! Although my flesh sometimes wants to try to make something "big" out of it, I'm under no pressure to build a big ministry when I simply let go and trust that God is building His church in whatever ways He sees fit.

Your post has reminded of something I remembered Steve McVey saying. I looked it up and it's in the acknowledgments section of the Grace Walk book.

"Finally, I thank God for His gracious leading in writing this book. The Holy Spirit gave me the desire to write my testimony, incorporating the truths of our identity in Christ into it. When I began to write, I had no thoughts of it being published. Our loving Father initiated it and completed it. I give Him the glory for whatever good may come from this book."

As we all know, much good has come from that book, including a "big" ministry. But we know that that wasn't Steve's "plan." Out of all the "big" ministries out there, Grace Walk is the type that I appreciate because it's plain to see that although it's 'organized' and reaches around the world, it's the result of the work of the Holy Spirit, not man, as man has simply believed.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Bob,

I am glad you stopped by. In fact, I think I was reading your latest post about 'Ragamuffin Ramblings''s Just how shocking is the Gospel? while you were putting this comments. It was a great read.

I have added "Irresistible Revolution" to my amazon wish list and "Wide Open Spaces" already there which I added as per your recommendation before. As we speak I am halfway through 'Divine Nobodies'. Man! One of the most influential book I have ever read!

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Joel,

Here is my testimony about graceroots: It has helped me. I think I have said this before, somehow I was hooked to your blogs through grace walk forum couple of years ago and it became a great resource for me. I have greatly enjoyed the blogs you write and to me what you are doing is a great ministry. (It is not necessary that all ministries should be featured in 'Christianity Today'!). But as long it is operated by a real God through real people, helping real people in real life, thats what it matters.

You said, Although my flesh sometimes wants to try to make something "big" out of it. Well, I think I have a much bigger 'flesh problem' so I can easily relate to what you meant. I am glad that you quoted that portion from 'Grace Walk', it makes perfect sense. Steve McVey has nothing to brag about that book or his ministry because it was God who was/is doing it and it is the sign of God given wisdom that Steve agrees to that fact.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Some additional thoughts about Ministry:

I lived my College days (In India) with 2 pairs of cloths and one pair of sandals. I have sold rice to make a living along with my father, carrying rice sacks on the back of my bicycle to the homes of Customers. I wasn't really 'poor', I always had food to eat and a place to sleep. But I have tasted the other side of 'abundance'. May be because of this background, knowing the condition of many lives in India, I have a heart for the poor and oppressed. I can say that I have compassion towards them. I greatly admire some of the great people (such as Mother Theresa) dedicated their lives to serving the poor, sick and oppressed. At the same time, I personally think that feeding truth is equally (may be more?) important as feeding food. While the food sustains our physical body, the truth sustains the eternal components of us.
Bible poses us a great question, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"
I don't really have to (unless God initiates such thing) to go to a third world country and serve them, ignoring some of the poor, sick and oppressed in Michigan!
I am tempted to 'do' many things but the bottom line is that I want Him to take me and do it, what ever it is. I don't want to respond to "my calling", but to "His calling".

Joel Brueseke said...

"But as long it is operated by a real God through real people, helping real people in real life, thats what it matters."

Amen to that! That really puts "ministry" into perspective.

And I really get what you're saying about feeding food and feeding the truth. I think Jesus did both, and mostly it was eternity that mattered. And I think this is where different parts of the Body come in. I personally have a heart for the poor, but my heart really thrives a whole lot more on the thought of feeding the truth to the poor in spirit. Others don't care much about teaching, but have hearts that thrive on helping those in physical need. I think if we each simply "be" who we are, then the full work of the ministry of Christ will be accomplished.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

Joel,
I am glad you mentioned 'Body'. Yes, as the believers rest in Christ (the Head), anything under that Head will bear fruit! And we need variety of fruits, from berries to pumpkins... some to feed the poor in body, some to feed the poor in spirit, some to develop websites, some to write blogs, some to visit the sick, some to encourage, some to write books, some to keep wondering what He is going to do through them, etc.