6. Ministry in the Church
In session 5, you thought about your ministry vision in the world. In this session, you’ll reflect on your vision for ministry in the church and the action steps you need to take in order to accomplish it. Even if you’ve never been involved in Christian service, you can start thinking about it. In light of your personal resources and the needs you know of, what kind of ministry should you be involved with? How do you go about getting involved? Whether you are refining your vision for an existing ministry or just getting started, this session will help you.
Individual Aim: To reevaluate your vision for ministry in the church and identify action steps that will help you attain it.
Group Aim: To encourage and support each other in the process of developing action steps for ministry in the church.
Read Session 6: Ministry in the Church.
Complete the Life Vision: Action Steps, The Church exercise beginning on page 117.
Most Christian organizations have an established ministry vision that guides what they do. In your occupation, you may have to establish a ministry vision that the organization doesn’t embrace, but in a Christian organization, the established vision often gives you enough guidance in your role there. Your church’s vision for small-group leaders, for example, may be completely adequate for guiding you as a group leader. Embrace that vision, and seek to serve consistently with it.
It’s still helpful, though, to reflect on your personal ministry vision. You may find that God convicts you to embrace additional biblical principles. For instance, in a ministry to the homeless, the main goal may be to meet physical needs. While the organization may not emphasize evangelism, you may feel that sharing your faith is a priority that God has put on your heart. As long as you make sure that the way you live out that vision is acceptable to the leadership, you ought to remain committed to it.
The difference between laboring in a Christian organization and laboring in your occupation is that in the former one, you explicitly represent Christ and His church. In your occupation, others may or may not think of you as a Christian, depending on how well they know you. In Christian service, others can rightly assume you represent the Christian message, the Christian community, and Christ Himself. When you teach a Sunday school lesson for a group of fourth-grade kids, those kids and their parents expect that your character and attitude will reflect the character and attitude of Christ. You are expected to love those children and teach them about Christ and His commands.
On the one hand, living out a ministry vision in a Christian organization can be easier than doing so at work. People have a deeper sense of responsibility and often built-in accountability to one another. While your coworker at the office has no vested interest in whether you live out biblical principles at the office, your partner in leading the youth group, as well as the parents, will question you if your behavior gives a poor example for the kids.
On the other hand, it’s easy for Christian service to slip into a status quo. You may think your service as an usher amounts to showing up and going through the motions. But if you take your service seriously, you will check your attitude to make sure your heart is bent toward loving fellow church members and guests. You might pray, for example, that the Lord will use your ushering to encourage someone who is downcast. This way of ministering is far harder to sustain week in and week out.
You will always minister imperfectly. You will never achieve perfect consistency in living out your vision, especially if you prayerfully continue to reevaluate and refine it. There will always be areas in which you can grow. God will make those areas evident as you listen to His voice through Scripture, prayer, and the counsel of other believers.
Because you will sometimes fail, you’ll need to seek forgiveness from God and others just as you do in your occupation. The person who fails to show up to prepare the sanctuary for a service and the pastor who betrays a church member’s confidentiality are both equally responsible for confessing their failures and seeking forgiveness. Forgiveness must be sought from God and from those who were affected by the failure.
Forgiveness should never be something Christian servants frown on. In what other context should Christians be more committed to freely confessing their faults to one another? Sadly, though, Christian service may be the area in which believers feel least willing to confess their failures. Be quick to seek forgiveness when you injure another. If you make a biting remark to a fellow servant, go to that person as soon as you can and ask for forgiveness. If someone comes to you seeking forgiveness, don’t brush him off. Rather, warmly offer forgiveness and reconciliation.
Being overworked is a key reason why people leave Christian service. So if you’ve never become involved in Christian service, you have more to offer than you think. By jumping in, you’ll help not only those whom you are serving directly but also your fellow ministers who are probably overworked.
If you have difficulty with saying no, you especially must beware of the peril of becoming overworked. If you overcommit yourself in Christian service, you will cease to have time for the Lord to minister to you. You can serve others only to the degree to which you are served by the Lord in your own spiritual life. If you are always filling an urgent need for Sunday school classes and thereby never attending the service, you may not be letting God sufficiently minister to you. Make it a commitment to let the Lord minister to you as you minister to others.
Conflict also is a common reason why people leave Christian service. The way you relate to fellow servants is as significant as the way you relate to those whom you are serving. For example, if you’re on a short-term mission trip rebuilding homes in an area devastated by a natural catastrophe, you might think your main concern is relating well to the locals. But the way you relate to others on your mission team has a major influence on other team members’ involvement in future mission trips. It might also give you greater influence on the locals. If they see you exhibiting Christ’s love to each other, they will receive a picture of Christian love and community that may be a primary influence in their coming to faith. You are called to love those you serve and also to love those you serve alongside.
Read Session 7: Ministry in the Home.
Complete the Life Vision: Action Steps, The Home exercise beginning on page 121.
Related Topics: Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry