Time to Ditch Your Ministry?

leaving-churchTo Christians, ministries are like iPhones – every Christian’s gotta have one! Surely, to be truly spiritual, every Christian must have their own personal ministry that they can launch, promote and run like a small business! (Don’t forget your tax-free status!) Preferably this ministry will coincide nicely with your personal interests.

Amy would rather play music than do her homework, so she needs to form a Christian band! Jackie enjoys gorging herself on chocolates, so she needs to start a Christian chocolate lovers home group! Joe likes drinking and picking up chicks, so he needs to launch a Christian dating ministry! These are the worlds familiar to them. These are the people they’re being “called” to reach. Right?

God certainly wouldn’t punish these enthusiastic folks by calling them to give up their passions, leave their comfortable lives, or simply live a simple, obscure life. God wants us to be happy – and famous! God wants us to have successful ministries!

What are ministries? Why are we concerned with having them? Jesus and the apostles didn’t emphasize the need for every Christian to have a personal, tax-exempt ministry relevant to their culture. He gave us very simple directives… Love God, love your neighbor, preach the Gospel, and make disciples. These should be the personal “ministries” of every Christian.

Don’t know what ministry God is calling you to? You don’t need to wait on the leading of the Holy Spirit to know that God is calling you to love Him, love your neighbor, preach the Gospel, and make disciples. Jesus was clear about all of those things. He calls all Christians to do these.

I don’t know about you, but I barely have enough time to do any one of these things – much less all of them. Why would I need to spend what free time I have creating more work (read: ministry) each day?

If you and I focused on loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, we wouldn’t have time for ministry. If we loved our neighbors as ourselves, our calendars would already be full.

Who do we spend the majority of our time with? Where is the bulk of our energy spent? If the answer is the Church or other Christians, then our priorities are off.

You don’t serve Christ by separating yourselves into Christian ministries and engaging the world from the perch of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, or from within the confines of an isolated church building or home group (geographically in the community, but practically absent & non-existent). You serve Christ by serving your neighbors – both the wealthy neighbors (aka big donors!) and the “least of these” (Matt 25:40).

What is your personal ministry? Is it based around a personal interest? Is your dedication to that particular interest distracting you from fulfilling God’s command to love Him, love your neighbors, preach the Gospel, and make disciples?

If you’re more concerned with how much money your ministry raises, how many people attend your meetings, how well your marketing efforts are going, or how fulfilled your ministry makes you… maybe it’s time to ditch your ministry.

If you’ve never met your next-door neighbor, invited them over for dinner, or planned a neighborhood block party… maybe it’s time to ditch your ministry.

If you don’t spend time every single day reading the Bible and praying to God, learning more about Him, and worshiping Him… maybe it’s time to ditch your ministry.

Quit using your ministry as an excuse to disengage from the world and from God. Be ready everyday to be interrupted by an opportunity to serve or get to know your neighbors, or to go to God in prayer. Life already has too many distractions. Don’t get caught up in the logistics of “ministry.”

Hell on Earth

On Saturday, I had a bad day. I found out that my wife and I had wasted a total of about $7,000 on a “beater” car we purchased a month ago, thinking it would last us through the next two years while we sacrificed financially to get out of debt. It was a perfect situation – a decent car needing only minimal repairs for a bargain price. Then we were broadsided with a costly oil pump break that caused damage to the engine. The cost of initial repairs would be over a thousand dollars, and that wasn’t counting the engine damage. It very well could be a total loss. We’ve decided to wash our hands of the thing before we dumped any more money into it.

It would be very easy for me to fall into a small depression over this large chunk of lost money. But I’ve been constantly reminding myself that it wasn’t our money to begin with. It was God’s money. We are simply stewards of the resources He’s given us. We tried really hard to be good stewards of His money. We kept our pride in check and purchased an old, inexpensive car for my wife. We shopped around and did research online. We enlisted several people in our car search and sought godly advice. We followed the “Dave Ramsey plan” in that we bought a “beater” so we could get out of debt faster. We did everything right.

But our best-laid plans are laughable to God. Our wisdom is foolishness to Him. Our perspective is so miniscule and limited, that we can hardly expect to understand why we go through struggles. However, we trust God that He’ll work everything out for our good.

As I waivered on the fulcrum of depression, I began to contemplate the fact that, as a Christian, this is as bad as it gets. My car could break down every week, I could lose my job tomorrow, I could even be beaten and killed next month – but the struggles I face during my few years here on Earth will be as bad as it gets for me.

When I die, it gets infinitely better. Upon my death, I will enter into the presence of God. There will never be pain, sorrow, broken down cars, or financial worry for me ever again. For Christians, our “hell” is our time on Earth. This is as bad as it gets. I could lose everything, and it would be nothing compared to the eternal judgment awaiting those who have rejected Christ.

I thank God that I will never experience true Hell, because Jesus has experienced it for me. He took my place, so that I could live forever with Him.

God’s Vengeance in Small Matters

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.” – Romans 12:19

About a week ago, I was on the train heading to work. A young man was sitting directly in front of me, and a mother and her young daughter was seated behind me. The man, probably no older than 25, spent the entire train ride talking loudly on his cell phone about very personal things to his girlfriend. Though I was not seated in the “quiet car,” where you are not allowed to talk or use electronic devices, no one else in the train car was talking. So everyone was forced to reluctantly listen to this young man’s conversation.

Throughout the conversation, the young man used vulgar profanity. I could feel the mother’s censorious gaze burning right through the back of my seat and feared my hair might catch aflame. I buried my head into the book lying dormant in my outstretched hands, but could not concentrate well enough to read with comprehension.

When we arrived at the penultimate train stop, the mother and daughter ascended their seats to leave. As she passed, the mother turned around and scowled at the young man. Unfortunately, his relentless conversation made him oblivious to her unsubtle, nonverbal feedback.

I tried to think of something to say or do to the man, once I arrived at our destination to express the train car’s collective and unspoken aggravation with him. But ultimately, I could only think of these words… “‘Vengeance is Mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I shall repay.'” I decided to let the whole episode loose from my mind and have faith (albeit blind) that the Lord would somehow, at some unforeseen time, correct this young man’s imprudent ways.

I didn’t at all think I would have the privilege of ever seeing such godly correction or discipline myself.

This morning, after getting off the train, I discovered that this same young man was walking directly in front of me, wearing the same smart suit he did last week. When we exited onto the streets of DC, up went my umbrella. The skies were open, and rain poured down upon the city with unrelenting ease. Though surrounded by thoughtful commuters toting a multitude of umbrellas in myriad colors, this man had no umbrella. He walked briskly down the sidewalk, dodging pesky impending pedestrians – his fine suit the only protection from the descending shower. To my bashful delight, he missed the crosswalk signal and had to wait with the rest of us by the street corner.

I considered how evil I was to delight in this swaggering, young man’s dilemma. But I also considered how wonderful it was to witness what I believed to be God’s vengeance in a most modest matter such as this.