Our conference talks about Risk Taking Ministry. As a pastor I’d be happy if all my people were involved in any kind of ministry. In my life the genre of literature that has most spurred me to risk taking ministry is missionary biography. When I compare their lives of faith with my own I see two things. First, I give thanks that my life is so easy and comfortable. Second, I see that I’ve risked hardly anything.
Why bother taking a risk? Why bother trying something that might fail? When I read the bible I see that God habitually calls people to do things they can’t do by themselves. If God doesn’t come through, they’re sunk. And here we are engineering our lives so that we don’t need God – so that we have all the resources we need to get by without any help at all. In the process of living independently, we miss God. Our faith stays weak, just as muscles that never encounter resistance stay weak. We want strong disciples, thus we see being in ministry not as a characteristic of a certain class of Christian (like the ordained), but of all who are disciples.
- Disciples are in ministry. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” As followers of Jesus, we do what he did.
- Disciples understand they are part of what God is doing in the world and that their obedience will make an eternal difference in the lives of others. Our culture says, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” God doesn’t think that way. God invites us to join in the Kingdom work. It isn’t make-work or hoop jumping. The work God calls us to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of people. If I were a Calvinist, I’d take comfort in the belief that my lack of obedience would never prevent God’s will from being done for another person. I’m not a Calvinist (at least not in that aspect). Real loss is possible – for me and the people around me – when I fail to respond to God’s call.
- Disciples know what their spiritual gifts are and use them with joy and faithfulness. God equips us for ministry. While our “natural” talents are put at God’s disposal also, the Holy Spirit gives us abilities we never would have had apart from divine intervention. Some of these gifts make us look good. Some will never be known by another person. Either way we take joy in joining God.
- Disciples work together as teams in ministry. Most of the ministry God calls us to cannot be done or sustained by our efforts alone. God arranges gifted people in the Body just as the organs of the human body are arranged in each individual. We need each other.
- Disciples respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the execution of their ministries and in the development of new ministries. We need not only the Spirit’s equipping but also the Spirit’s guidance in our ministry. We need the Spirit to sharpen and aid our perceptual and interpretive faculties. Sometimes the ministry to which God calls us will make good sense to just about everyone. Sometimes we won’t have a clue what’s happening: We’ll simply be obeying.
- Disciples with more experience seek out new people to train in ministry. The normal way to pick up new skills or to develop facility with new abilities is to watch those more gifted than ourselves. Ministry is multiplied as we draw in people who are less experienced than we are and help them join in. Jesus’ model of discipleship is a form of apprenticeship. As his disciples, we are each apprentices of those who are farther along than we are, and take apprentices who aren’t as far along as we are.
- Disciples have the ability and confidence to respond to new needs and situations as they arise. As we follow Jesus, taking up his agenda for our lives, we employ our creativity and innovation. We know the world is changing and that the people we need to reach today are likely culturally different from the people we used to reach. Followers of Jesus are willing to do new things to connect new generations and populations with Jesus.
- All ministry leads to demonstrating the love of God so that people might know Him and become faithful disciples. We can get tired just thinking of all the things that need to be done. The end we pursue, however, isn’t mere busyness or task completion. We do what we do so that God’s love might be manifest through us so that people might become disciples also.