Thursday, October 21, 2010

What Is Your Ministry? Part 1

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What does it mean to have a ministry, and how do you know what your ministry is? Are you constantly pulled to serve with the PTA, teach Sunday School, keep nursery in addition to your regular basis, serve on multiple committees at the church, help everyone else at work complete their projects, keep the house spotless, cook gourmet meals, have children who look like they just walked out of a fashion magazine, participate in the latest outreach at church…and do you feel guilty if you don’t say “yes” to every request?

In today’s world of “purpose-driven movements,” there are articles ad nauseum on “finding your purpose,” “seeking your spiritual gifts,” and the like, creating a feeling in so many people that they are less than acceptable Christians if they’re not working all the time fulfilling some purpose that they picked up in a book or if they are not developing a treasure trove of spiritual gifts that they never realized they have. But I am here to tell you that you won’t find your ministry in the latest best-seller, and there is no small-group program out there to help you “develop” it.

Furthermore, falling for these schemes will take you into bondage, and you will be burdened constantly by what you are unable to achieve. When you are burdened and in bondage, you cannot experience the freedom found in Christ!

Ladies, let me warn you, we are much more vulnerable to an attack by the enemy in this than our husbands are. It is in the feminine nature, as we are created by our Father, to seek to please those around us (after all, we were created to be “helpers,” – see Genesis 2:18) and when we feel we are failing to live up to someone else’s expectations, we worry about what people will think or say, particularly behind our backs.

It is an unfortunate occurrence in the church, but it all too often happens in the workplace as well, and if you are to be a reflection of Christ’s light to those in your realm of influence, you must be aware, and wary. You also need to realize that someone at church asking you to serve in a particular capacity is not necessarily a call from God for you to serve. Responding to a call from God is a different issue – one we’ll talk about in the coming weeks.

I would like for you to consider instead what the Bible says about this:

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:1-8, NIV, emphasis mine)

As we talked about Tuesday, this is an issue of dying to yourself and allowing God to reshape your thoughts so that you can clearly discern His will. Your ministry should not be about finding your purpose or spiritual gifts; it should be about determining what God’s will is.

I think that Paul is trying to tell us here that it is vanity to (1) think we can do it all and (2) then actually try to do it all. I had never noticed this before until I started this study; I have always viewed this passage as being about “figuring out where you fit into the body,” but I am viewing it differently now.

(1)     When we think we are capable of doing everything and being all things to all people, we think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We are acting in a spirit of pride and vanity, neither of which glorify God. If one person could do it all, the Body of Christ wouldn’t need so many parts!
(2)     When we try to do it all, we take away another’s opportunity to work for God. It’s like Paul admonishes in 1 Corinthians 12:
“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be?” (1 Corinthians 12:14-19, NIV)

Look at it this way: if we had feet where they belong as well as where our hands are, what would we ever be able to accomplish? We need those opposable thumbs! And just as it would be acting in vain to try to use a foot to accomplish what a hand is needed for, it is vanity and pride for us to think that we can be all things to all people while doing everything all the time. Therefore, if an area of service is not what we are called to do, let him (or her!) who is called to do it, do it! Do not rob someone else’s opportunity to serve in the position God has prepared for that person.

If you try to be involved in everything, including having your children in every possible extracurricular activity, you will find yourself in slavery to everything to which you have committed. If you are convinced by popular culture that you must find your purpose or spiritual gift before God can use you, you will also be enslaved by the process. So, Ladies, let Jesus break those chains! Let Him transform you by renewing your mind! It’s time to start thinking differently about what it means to have a ministry. We’ll talk more about what it does mean in tomorrow’s post.

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