I think an overlooked face of ministry is allowing others to minister to us. I think this is just as much a vital part of ministry as ministering to others is. In many ways it’s harder to let others reach out to us, encourage us, and offer words of wisdom. It feels much better to be the one who can offer than to receive for some reason. Pride I suppose. But I think something beautiful happens when we don’t resist being ministered to. When we humble ourselves and recognize our need for others. I think we see a another dimension of the Body of Christ when we do this. At first it might take discipline to accept help from others. It might feel awkward. We might have to force ourselves to accept someone’s offer to help. For example, when you know you are overloaded and someone offers to bring you a meal, teach your lesson, watch your child, or whatever it may be…..stop yourself before you say “Oh, that’s okay, thanks anyways. I’ll be alright.” Let them do it for heaven’s sake! Who cares if you are the meal coordinator at your church and have been for 102 years…..someone can still be allowed to deliver you a meal without it being a weird thing.
If we can start with simply saying “yes” to an offer then maybe we can move to the hard task of asking for help from others. How hard this is especially for the driven, type A personality. “Ask for help? Are you crazy, don’t have time and it wouldn’t be done the way I want it anyways. Then it requires more time to fix what just got messed up. Besides, everyone else is busy taking care of their own families. Asking for help just heaps on more stress for everyone.” This thought pattern is so contrary to scripture and how God seems to have set up the church. Bearing one another’s burdens, sharing as if my stuff is your stuff and on and on we see the Body of Christ caring for one another in the Bible. But in order for that to happen sometimes we need to speak up, as hard as it is, and ask for help.
Sometimes I think it’s an issue of not knowing how to reach out to others for help. Not understanding or ever seeing what true community can look like in a church might feed into this. Because if you grew up thinking that you are the only one who is ever going to take care of yourself and you must pull yourself up by your boot straps in order to survive, then the Body of Christ coming together to help one another is a very foreign concept. And so I wonder if a face of ministry is prayerfully anticipating the needs of others. Not that we go around as the ministry police looking to do the mercy pounce on people….whatever that is. But being sensitive to what others might need around us. I have often wondered what it would be like to go through an entire day and to know the events of the last 48 hours of the strangers around us. Like the car in front of you that isn’t going at the green light. Imagine a big flat screen TV in the sky revealing what went down in their household for the last two days. Would we so impatiently honk our horn if we knew the terminal diagnosis they had just received. What if we knew about the abuse the waitress goes home to every single night……would we roll our eyes in disgust when she got the order all wrong. Of course we can’t always know the hurts and pain people around us go through but when we know there is stressful circumstances in their life (loss of job, recent move, death in the family, aging parents, illness) thinking and praying through what might be an encouragement to them is always a great place to start in ministering to others.
The gift of a handwritten note today is something worthwhile. A text message of nothing but scripture can be more powerful than you think. That phone call where you think you don’t know what to say, but pray and ask God for words and you do it anyways, can be just what that person needed. This type of ministry takes opening our eyes to the daily world around us. Not in a superior way….. thinking we know what people need and can meet that need, because only God can do that. But He uses us to encourage His people, His church. And asking Him to give us insight into the needs of people around us and what our place might be in helping people is a powerful ministry. And it has many faces of its own. It will look different every time. You might even think “ministry” is too strong of a word because it seems so small or insignificant. It might seem more like a good gesture that anyone would do. And I think this is where a Christ likeapproach/purpose is the difference between ministering and a kind gesture. You can take a loaf of bread to your neighbor and it be a nice thing to do or you can take a loaf of bread to your neighbor and it be a ministry moment. How you approach it makes all the difference in the world. For me, making something for a neighbor means I pray while I’m making the item. First of all I pray it turns out and doesn’t burn to shreds in my oven. And yes, that is necessary these days for some reason. Secondly I pray for the person personally. I take what little I know of the person and ask God to intervene and meet the needs He already knows. I ask for Him to use the small token loaf of bread to somehow show His love. And then we walk it over and spend a few minutes with that person. No big deal. I don’t preach my husband’s last sermon or anything. Just walk over some goodies and spend some time talking. This is ministry. It seems shallow, light, unimportant. But it’s not. It’s powerful when preceded with prayer and for the purpose of loving others. Sometimes it takes the bringing over of bread for a year before they cry on your shoulder and ask for prayer for the cancer diagnosis they just received. Ministering in small ways many times opens the doors for direct divine dialog in days to come. But you’d never get there if it weren’t for the handfuls of purpose, as my Father-in-law calls them, along the way. I shouldn’t say “never” because God can use anything He wants and does use random, out of the blue moments to share Christ’s love. But in my experience, He has used the slow process of relationship to get to that point more than a random come to Jesus talk.
Well, these are just some of my thoughts on ministry. It was long and I haven’t even touched on ministry from the perspective of a pastor’s family. But I think this is where my heart is right now because I see people underestimate the power of ministry. And if we could get a hold of the concept that, as believers, we are all ministers of the Gospel and it doesn’t mean you necessarily are the preacher then our communities would be forever changed. Our churches would be changed as we care for each other and let others care for us in the way God designed it.
I don’t always practice this well. I will always remember cringing at the fact that people in my church were washing our clothes while I had surgery. I’ll be honest and say I didn’t allow the underwear out of the house. The deal was Randy or I would put the laundry basket out on the front porch and someone in our church would come by and pick it up and then deliver it the next day all folded. I know…..a total God send of a ministry! My house was cleaned for me and meals delivered. Amazing. Felt really weird and uncomfortable but it was something I will never ever forget in my life. That and my friend in church calling me up when I was freaking out about my surgery not going the way it was supposed to and I was having complications. Long story. I’ll just say we were praying the “poopy prayer” together. Not many people you can do that with. Ha! I can’t believe I just said that. I wasn’t “going” like I was supposed to and I was afraid I had another blockage and was gripped with fear. My friend called me up and said, “I’m coming over and taking you to get coffee.” I said, “No, I’m in my pj’s.” And she said, “Then I’ll get in mine too and we’ll go in our pj’s.” And she did, ya’ll. She put on her pj’s and we went and got coffee. Never did she quote a Bible verse to me and I don’t recall even talking a ton. But there we were. Together. At Holy Grounds coffee shop in our pajama’s. And it was ministry if I’ve ever seen it.