5. Ministry in the World
In session 3, we introduced a distinction between ministry in the world, the church, and the home. We will now discuss ministry action steps for each area. Action steps vary, depending on our season of life and the details of our context, so each of us needs to reevaluate our vision periodically.
Individual Aim: To reevaluate your vision for ministry in the world and identify action steps to attain it.
Group Aim: To encourage and support each other in the process of developing action steps for ministry in the world.
Read Session 5: Ministry in the World.
Complete the Life Vision: Action Steps, The World exercise beginning on page 113.
In an autobiographical essay, novelist Walter Wangerin reflects on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11. Wangerin says, “When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child. When I became a man I put away childish things, but the man I became was shaped in childhood, and that shape remains forever.” Many forces have shaped you into the man or woman you have become.
In this session, you will look at some of the forces that have shaped you with an eye toward your ministry within the world. While most of this session emphasizes a workplace setting, ministry in the world encompasses a larger scope. Your “world” encompasses your PTA, neighborhood preschool playgroups, a homeowners association, city recreation leagues, social clubs, stores, and anywhere else you gather with unbelievers.
Think of your vision as a picture of what you want your ministry to look like. For example, you may want a ministry of mentoring your team of analysts. In order to minister to the people on your team, you will take specific steps to attain that vision. You may commit to having lunch with each person on the team twice a month. You may keep a file on all individuals with notes of previous conversations and questions you want to ask them. You may help them come up with plans for their personal development. You may periodically invite them to your home. These are the kinds of action steps you will record in your “Life Vision” exercise for this session.
In addition to action steps, you also need to think about obstacles you’ll face as you pursue your vision. Ministry vision isn’t pie-in-the-sky dreams; it’s a commitment to demonstrate Christian love and ethics to those with whom you come in contact. Knowing yourself well lets you understand the challenges you’ll face in living out your ministry vision. Remembering past experiences in which you struggled with an issue can make you aware of how temptations tended to trip you up. Awareness of those past experiences can help you overcome those temptations today.
For instance, if you have consistently been drawn into cynical gossip in the break room about your coworkers, you may need to avoid the break room or be more prepared to restrain yourself from gossiping. Maybe each time you go into the break room, you can commit to an attitude of prayer, seeking God’s moment-by-moment guidance for what you say. The obstacles section of your “Life Vision” exercise is a good place to note temptations you’ll face.
Time is the top obstacle on many people’s lists. We’re so overwhelmed with responsibilities that we can’t imagine adding one more thing. Be realistic and gentle with yourself. What can you do? If you don’t have time to have lunch with every team member twice a month, could you make time to do so with each team member once a month? Know your limits, but let God stretch you.
To live according to your ministry vision, you’ll need to pay deliberate attention to it each day. You must daily seek God’s guidance and strength to live it. When you fail to do so, seek forgiveness first from God and then from others, if necessary. For example, if you are committed to encouraging your employees, you may have to apologize for discouraging or cynical comments. Don’t give up on your ministry vision simply because you experience failure. Failure is defined not by moments when you live contrary to your vision but by ceasing to be committed to it altogether. In many “world” settings, living out godly character is a daunting task. Many workplaces provide no incentive for godliness; some offer incentive for ungodliness. Believers can’t expect godly character from those who have no dynamic, life-changing relationship with a holy God. Don’t expect unbelievers to embrace the lifestyle God has led you to embrace. Rather, seek to live a holy life in their presence for His glory.
In some ways, your past experience and personal makeup may help you be Christ’s witness in your world. In other ways, you may feel those things create overwhelming challenges for your effectiveness as a witness. Yet in both your strengths and weaknesses, God wants you to walk through your day in relationship with and reliance on Him, with a heart that intends to glorify Him rather than yourself.
Read Session 6: Ministry in the Church.
Complete the Life Vision: Action Steps, The Church exercise beginning on page 117.
Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry