April 19, 2012

In the movie, Fellowship of the Ring, there is a powerful statement that Gandalph seethes at Frodo after the young hobbit has offered the ring to him. He says, “Don't tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it: Not even to keep it safe. Understand Frodo, I would use this ring from a desire to do good, but through me it would wield a power too great and powerful to imagine.”

It has me wondering how many of us feel the call of ministry only to have it swallowed up in our own selfish kingdom building? What if, as was the case with the disciples, the kingdom that Christ is using us to build is actually far different than the one we desire.

So what happens when my ministry looks more like a Jerry Springer show than a Youth group ideas book? How do I resolve the fact that success for my ministry is measured, somedays, by whether the middle school boys flushed. When conference speakers are talking about the injection of the Holy Spirit,why do I most often believe that the answer to our ministry problems could be solved by issuing tranquilizing darts to my volunteers? When other youth workers give updates that seem more like a greatest hits recitation, how is it that I am embarrassed to say that we have two kids being discipled by a staffer and a couple of our missing kids showed up to an event? We have the unhealthy tendency to evaluate what God is doing, based on our personal fulfillment.

I realize that we have have the propensity to desire our unrealistic expectations for the purpose of self importance and recognition. I fight with my pride on this. Whereas it is true that I have great intentions for the Kingdom, and it is also true that I pray for only what God has for me on a personal level, when it comes to the things that I want to do for Him, I want more and more. I have found that my ambition to serve the Lord can lead me to dissatisfaction. It is a spiritual issue.

I need a measuring staff for my ministry that immerses me in Christ's reality and value. By evaluating my ministry based on a few of the lessons I have learned from Christ's own ministry. These are principles that are hardly the kind that will find themselves on the main stage of a youth ministry conference. In some respects they can be as demotivating as a real day in ministry can be. It also will be a standard that I need the Holy Spirit to raise.

I have to consistently remind myself that God has not required my assistance in anything he wants to do. Instead, he is at work in me, through the process of His will.Tough stuff. Here is my “Go-to” list for true accountability in working towards God's will.

1.Ministry is not popularity
Christ himself understood that he would be rejected. Ministry has a propensity to drive us to a desire to popularity. When we judge our success by numbers alone, we have set a bar that Christ set for us. There are occasions when God will move and critical mass happens, but it is not to be our measurement of ministry value.  Mark 8:31

2. Break-Ups are inevitable

The Bible is full of difficult passages about disagreements and the parting of ways. One of the best known was the disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over the value of John Mark's service.

I remember being taught that God used the split to further perpetuate the gospel. I do believe that, but it does not change the struggle that it must have been for both, Paul and Barnabas. I believe that both men must have been in anguish over the break. It must have weighed on them both. How could God allow a dear friend to be so wrong?

The truth is that we must accept that opinions can divide, and we will have differences of opinion that will cause divides.

3. Some partners will cause damage
When Judas abandoned Christ, it was with malice and in spite of the fact that God used it to bring about his salvation, caused death. It also was the step to a suicide. I cannot begin to understand God's ways, but I can recognize how the people must of talked about Jesus leadership. The conversations must have been laced with criticism and sarcasm.

In ministry, not all partings are simple. Students leave. Staff leaves. Sometimes they do not like you. Sometimes they will talk. Sometimes they will cause damage.

4. No one boasts in the failures
There are thousands of untold stories in the Bible. I am compelled by those. I wonder how many people left the hill side an hour before dinner and thought, “Yeah. Jesus is an interesting speaker, but I gotta get something to eat.”

They not only would have missed the miracle of the loaves and the fish, and likely missed the message of the Bread of Life.
  Peter sunk. Thomas doubted him. One of the men hanging beside him refused to grasp his one last chance. There were pharisees in every crowd, catching the grammatical errors but missing the truth of the ages. For every believer, there were ten crucifiers. For everyone who heard, there were thousands who did not. Jesus didn't heal everyone, and it is likely that some spent their life denying the power of Christ, while others simply held their illnesses against Him. This is the part that kills me. Christ knew all of it.

I am denied the paralyzing knowledge of each way and person I have, and am failing every day. That is grace that I need. I have found that the single most energizing thought I can have is this. Grace resides in failure.

Paul put it this way. “He is made strong in my weakness.”

No problem there. Weakness is my strength.  

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