Friday, January 04, 2008

Does High-Profile Ministry Equate to Significance?

The ministry event is accomplished. While many pitched in and helped there was one person who spent hours upon hours working hard to pull it off. “Chris” was the driving force behind the team. The Sunday after the event, the pastor mentions the success of the event and announces the great sacrifice of time, effort and stress that Chris offered that made the difference between success and failure. The whole congregation erupts in applause and floods Chris with accolades afterward. Later, when a leader is sought to head up another important ministry, Chris will be a good candidate. After all, Chris is successful in high-profile ministry. Chris is… significant.

“Jean” has worked for years in the nursery. She has changed the diapers of a full two-thirds of the congregation. She experiences corporate worship no more than four or five times a year. Few besides the young parents and grandparents see her on a regular basis. The pastor’s kids have long since grown and gone and not even the pastor’s wife knows what Jean is up to. Jean also visits her own mother in the nursing home most days and some evenings. She sits with her although her Alzheimer’s-ridden mother often doesn’t recognize her. Her mother’s roommate knows Jean and welcomes the relatively more sentient company. Jean receives no accolades. As far as most everyone is concerned, Jean’s ministry isn’t really all that significant.

What is significance? Is it the effectiveness of a ministry? It can be argued that Chris’ work is more significant because more people were affected by one big event than even Jean’s changing diapers over the years. Is significance determined by public opinion? This is influenced by public visibility. Chris gets all sorts of encouragement. Surely that’s a sign of significance. Few, if any, notice or care what Jean does. She has received little to no encouragement over the years. Why continue with no affirmation? After all, don’t we often consider affirmation from others a sign that we are doing what we need to do?

Recently Steve at Stand to Reason Blog pondered this. Please read his Christmas experience here.

I suppose it would be helpful to know what God finds to be significant. Let’s look at Matthew 25:31-46.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

I encourage any who read this to consider the significance of those ministering around them according to Christ’s criteria here. Go ahead and encourage someone in a high profile ministry, but how much more should we encourage those who labor out of sight in situations that are less than desirable. Are you willing to touch people with the love of Christ when those people can bring you no glory among others?

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Blogger Mark Pemberton said...

The "Body of Christ" is a perfect example of what you're talking about Bro. The hand seems to be a very useful item of the body, but is completely useless without the arm and shoulder to move it to and fro, to be able to reach that which it needs to grasp. Should kudos go to the hand and only the hand? The human body is very similar to the Body of Christ. Functionality should be harmonious, else it will stumble.

Good scripture references:
1 Cor 12
Rom 12

Significance should not be placed on a person or part of the body. It is the work of the whole body that accomplishes "events". What would mission trips be without the prayer warriors at home on their knees? Do the prayer warriors get praise?

For those who are praised, humble yourself, reject the praise and give God all the Glory.

For those who are praising others, you're focusing on the wrong person. Focus on God. Praise God and give HIM the Glory.

For those who want praise by men, you need to examine where your self-worth is being defined. Self-worth is not a result of something, it should already be defined by Christ.

You're right on about encouraging others. I don't know if I would encourage others based on their job, but encourage someone more whose "encouragement tank" is running low. There are some folks whose job may be less appealing to others receive joy out of their job. Wacky example is I don't mind changing my girls dirty diapers because God has given me the (almost) inability to smell dirty diapers. My wife on the other hand can smell a dirty diaper on the other side of the house. My point is, as you may have said earlier, we tend to rank jobs based on their significance. In some businesses, that may be fine, but in the Body of Christ, our job isn't for ourselves, it's to Glorify God. (ok, the diaper example is not that good of an example based on context of this post, but I hope you get the idea.)


Mon Jan 07, 04:54:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Jim Pemberton said...

Great points, bro!

Mon Jan 07, 11:32:00 PM GMT-5  

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