Posts Tagged ministry
We’re sharing some ideas on how everybody can make a difference to guests and non-Christians that join us on Sundays. For the context of our discussion, check out the recent posts, The Sermon Starts in The Parking Lot, The Sunday Mind-Shift, Show Up Early, and Take a Genuine Interest.
Over a year ago, I had an “exit interview” with a man who was leaving our church. He was a single man in his 40s and had been going through a tough time. After years away from church, God used the death of his mom, unemployment and a couple of other trials to bring him back. Our church was one of the first he visited.
I distinctly remember him saying was something like this:
“On my first Sunday I spent about 15 minutes pouring out my heart to somebody that I just met. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing on my part, but I was emotional and things were tough. At the end of the conversation, the guy I was talking to said something like, ‘Well, here’s my number, let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.’ I thought, Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you? Seriously? I just poured out my heart and told you all my problems. Clearly there is something you could do for me. It felt like I just got blown off.”
This is admittedly a tough situation. I’m sure many of us would not be exactly sure what to do if we had a total stranger spilling his or her guts on us. But there’s an important lesson here. We should come to church ready to do ministry.
The Sunday gathering is not merely a place to be ministered to, but a place to get in the game and participate. If we can’t do it on Sunday when we’re on our home turf, what chance do we have during the week out in the world?
In the end, this mostly comes down to mindset. And each of us needs to have a mindset ready to care for people, pray for people, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to them.
Are you ready?
We’re sharing some ideas on how everybody can make a difference to guests and non-Christians that join us on Sundays. For the context of our discussion, check out the recent posts, The Sermon Starts in The Parking Lot, The Sunday Mind-Shift, and Show Up Early.
Have you ever wondered how somebody like Bill Clinton–with his political polarization and personal immorality–can remain so enchanting to so many people? As you listen to those who have met him, one reason comes sharply into focus. They all say something like, “When you meet Bill Clinton, it feels like you’re the only person in the room.”
In other words, despite all his faults, Clinton takes a genuine interest in people. He’s not busy looking over their shoulder or glancing at his watch. He truly cares.
If a politician will do that, how much more should God’s people do that? Isn’t it simply the essence of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself”?
If you want to make a real difference in somebody’s life, take a genuine interest in them. Ask them sincere questions. Listen rather than thinking of what to say next. And slow down.
I have to admit that this is personally tough for me — especially on Sundays when I’m trying to meet lots of new people, care for those in our church family, and think through the elements of my sermon and the service. It’s tough. But I’m trying.
I’d love it if we had 300 other people trying as well. I think the love of Jesus like that would turn our church upside down.
Want to make a difference for those who are guests on Sunday? Here’s a very simple way: Show up early.
As a pastor, I’m at our gathering location early every week. And I’ve noticed that, at least at our church, only 3 kinds of people show up early (at least 10 minutes before):
- Older people
- New people
Older people are just respectful and are basically not in a hurry, ex-cons have been subconsciously trained that if they don’t show up early they don’t eat, and new people are there because they didn’t want to show up late and get embarrassed.
When these guests arrive, wouldn’t it be great if there were a bunch of genuinely joyful people there, excited about the chance to be together and celebrate Jesus? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were loving, devoted Christ-followers ready to strike up a conversation or say hello?
If you were a guest, that’s what you’d want. And all it takes is showing up early.
I know, I know…it takes kids forever to get moving in the morning, especially when you want them to hurry. But they do it for school and you do it for work. Why? Because showing up early to those things is important to you. Shouldn’t the opportunity to love on guests to our church (people who are likely exploring the faith) be just as important?
There is low-hanging gospel fruit and ministry every week for those who will take it. So join me, your pastors and the band and come love on some new people!
For a context of this discussion, see The Sermon Starts in the Parking Lot.
Making a difference with the guests to our church is not hard. It takes surprisingly little effort. But, sadly, few Christians intentionally focus on this opportunity to love and serve our neighbors. When we invite our own friends and family, we do this naturally. But what about the other Sundays when other people have invited their friends?
Make a mind-shift.
Colin Marshall writes:
See church as a place where Christians go to work. Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church— ‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called [Second Mile Church], but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own.
This will change your reasons for going to church. Make the shift from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others.
Why do you think we do this naturally when we bring guests to church, but we forget it the other weeks?
Justin Anderson is one of the lead pastors at Redemption Church, and he was kind to spend some time last night with our leaders at our monthly “2nd Tuesday” gathering. Training leaders is a high priority for us as a church, and Justin’s words were great things for us to hear. I had asked him to speak on the topic, “How to Accidentally Screw Up Your Ministry.” Unfortunately we didn’t have the audio equipment available to record his talk, but here’s a summary of what we learned.
Foundational Principle — Grace Leads to Action
In Ephesians 2:8-10, we learn that we are absolutely dependent on God’s grace. We are saved by God’s grace, period. But this always leads to action always follows from true grace. If you don’t think God loves you by grace, you miss the gospel. If you don’t act as a result of the grace you’ve received, you misunderstand the power of the gospel.
How to Accidentally Screw Up Your Ministry
1. Use guilt, shame, or moralism to motivate people. While guilting people into action is always easier and has power to produce results, it produces only short-term results. The gospel motivates by grace, love, and a compelling vision for the future. So should we. There are times when we need to administer a “kick in the pants” to those we love, but we should not make guilt our de-facto motivator.
2. Stay off mission. Many leaders convince themselves and their people that they “aren’t ready” for mission or that they need to grow more first. The result is that they end up insulated in a Christian subculture that never contributes to the overall Kingdom of God.
3. Use your ministry to prop yourself up. It’s wonderful to receive compliments and encouragement, but if you are using your ministry to find your identity, you are an idolater. One of Justin’s former pastors said, “Compliments are like perfume. Smell them and you’ll be fine, but drink them and you’ll be sick.”
4. Don’t let your ministry get bigger than you. Many leaders put themselves at the center where nothing can happen without them. As a result, the ministry stifles and young leaders never develop their full potential.
5. Forget that your ministry is just a piece of the puzzle of the church. Because we love the ministry we do, it’s easy to see our ministry as the ultimate one. As a result, many leaders and ministries compete with each other rather than serve each other. Leaders are called to raise their sights above this and keep the big picture in mind.
6. Sacrifice your family or personal walk with God for the sake of ministry. If your life is screwed up, your ministry is screwed up. If you don’t pray or love your spouse because you are “doing ministry,” soon you will have no ministry to do and your life will be in shambles.
7. Lead negatively more than positively. Rather than being an encouraging coach who celebrates others’ wins and allows them to have a voice in their development, many leaders focus too much on what is broken and on telling others what to do.
8. Forget that there is nothing more important than knowing, loving, and experiencing Jesus. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3 that everything was rubbish compared to knowing Jesus. If we forget this, then our ministries–which should be designed to help people love Jesus–miss the mark.
9. Overspiritualize your ministry. These are leaders who pray but don’t plan. They talk but don’t do. This is a mistake. We should both pray and strategize.
10. Underspiritualize your ministry. These are leaders who plan and do but don’t pray. They over-value their creativity and resourcefulness and forget that they desperately need the Lord to guide them.
11. Forget that millions of Christians have come before you. Leaders are prone to have “new” ideas that aren’t really all that new and to convince themselves that their ideas are novel. But they aren’t. For example, in the 90s Bill Hybels talked about being “Contagious Christians” and now people talk about being “missional.” Many of our ideas are not new or novel (if they were it might be heresy), but are simply repackaged versions of things Christians have done for centuries. We would be wise to learn from them and humble ourselves.
This Sunday we’ll be exploring one of the most forceful passages of Scripture that describe our new identities as servants. What I’ve realized through studying and preparing is that it’s important that we see servanthood as an identity more than as an action. In other words, we don’t just serve — we are servants.
Consider the following teaching taken from our Membership Packet on servanthood:
1. The essence of being a follower of Jesus is to become more and more like him.
This is the goal of sanctification, which Wayne Grudem defines as, “A progressive work of both God and man that makes Christians more and more free from sin and more and more like Christ in their actual lives.”
Romans 8:28-29 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Luke 6:40 – A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
2. One could make a strong biblical case that the essence of Christlikeness is being a servant.
Mark 10:45 – For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ran-som for many.”
John 13:12-17 – When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
3. Not only did Jesus serve, but he had the heart of a servant. He thought like a servant.
4. Servants think more about others than themselves.
This is true humility: not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. They are self-forgetful. When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us…We can measure our servant’s heart by how we respond when others treat us like servants. How do you react when you’re taken for granted, bossed around, or treated as inferior?
5. Servants base their identity in Christ.
Because they remember they are loved and accepted by grace, servants don’t have to prove their worth. They willingly accept jobs that insecure people would consider “beneath” them. The more insecure you are, the more you will want people to serve you, and the more you will need their approval. When you base your worth and identity on your relationship to Christ, you are freed from the expectations of others, and that allows you to really serve them best.
6. Servants think of ministry as an opportunity, not an obligation.
This is something that, if really embraced by our church, would make our Sunday gatherings warmly and delightfully different than anything people might be used to experiencing at church.
Here are some of the best lines from the article:
“Church is a place where Christians go to work.”
“The shift was made from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant. Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them.”
“The preacher should not be the only one preparing for church.”
“We need to develop a nose for new people…The way we welcome and look after people when they visit our homes should be a model for the household of God.”
“It is your meeting, not the minister’s. It’s all about being observant and outward-looking.”
Is this something you think you could do? What obstacles do you think you’d face?
(Note: The PDF is an edited, condensed, and Americanized version of the original, which can be found here)
Wow — there is so much great stuff in Luke 4-7! Lots of challenging truths and examples. It’s wonderful to just take a plunge into Jesus’ life, teaching, and ministry. Here are some of the ways this passage is encouraging me. Be sure to leave your comments and questions.
- Jesus was constantly led by the Holy Spirit (4:1, 14).
- The word of God was soaked into Jesus life in a way that helped him overcome temptation (4:4, 8, 12).
- Jesus’ ministry was holistic — he cared about the whole person’s life (4:18-19). This was reflected in his teaching, healing, and demon-outcasting.
- Jesus taught and did ministry with unique authority (4:32; 7:7-8)
- Jesus can and does forgive sin (5:23-24).
- Wildly sinful people LOVED to be around Jesus (5:29).
- Jesus bathed his big decisions in extensive prayer (6:12).
- Jesus’ values were counter-cultural and upside down from the world (6:20-36).
- Jesus expects us to obey him. To call him Lord and not obeying him would be ridiculous (6:46).
- Jesus was so much fun to be around that he was accused of being a glutton and a drunk (7:34).
- The natural response to radical grace is radical worship (7:47).
How would I be different if this truth were explosively alive in my innermost being?
- The main thing that struck me here was the radical holiness of Jesus mixed with his incredible liveliness and fun. If this truth were explosively alive in my life, I would be deeply committed to personal holiness and godliness while also being lots of fun. It’s usually not hard to try to have fun, but it is harder to be radically holy. Then, when I am focused on holiness, it’s easy to get kind of stodgy, uptight, and overly serious. May God make me both holy and fun, so that extreme sinners would love being around me but would always sense an authentic commitment to costly obedience.
For those of you Second Milers who are regular blog readers, you get a sneak peek at the fall “On-Ramp” Group & Ministry Catalog. I’m excited about the ministry that will take place through our church this fall. We’re now up to 16 Community Groups this fall(!), which should be enough to allow anybody in our church to participate in life-changing community and discipleship.
This fall we’re going to be preaching verse-by-verse through Colossians on Sunday, and every group will spend time applying the lessons during the week. After a summer of great topic-driven groups, I’m looking forward to a season of deeper relationship building and application. The goal is to become “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”
Check out the Fall “On-Ramp” and get involved!
There’s a song that I’ve been listening to that I just can’t get out of my head. It’s by a band called Downhere, and the song is called “Little is Much.” You can download this song (and the entire album it’s on) for free here. I love this song because it’s an encouragement that God can use small things for his glory in a powerful way. Here’s an example:
Little is much when God’s in it
And no one can fathom the plans He holds
Little is much when God’s in it
He changes the world with the seeds we sow
Little is much, little is much
Consider a Kingdom in the smallest seed
Consider that giants fall to stones and slings
Consider a child in a manger
Consider the story isn’t over
What can be done with what you still have?
This is a great reminder that God can work through small things and things that seem insignificant and powerless — even you and me. Little is much when God’s in it.