The Measure of a Ministry

I sat in the second pew from the front and listened to the pastor gush about the families who had just joined our church. They were the products of a new ministry that had the potential of just exploding on the scene. It was a popular, modern-day, me-message kind of ministry. It was packaged right, marketed right, and all the cool church kids were going. 

Except me. 

Oooo. Jealousy jumped me from behind. Resentment spilled from my heart onto my face. Tears slid from my eyes. 

Why isn’t anyone praising my ministry? Why aren’t more people coming alongside me and doing the good work that I’m involved in? 

Then it hit me — the ministries I’m involved in are not the cool kid ministries. They are HARD. They often leave me desperate for a shower. They often make me wish I could unsee what I have seen, could unlearn what I now know about sin and people and realities beyond my own experience.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. God can use ANY ministry for His purposes at any time, and He does. So I’m not ditching the get-all-dressed-up conferences and get-togethers. There are times when I wish that’s what God had called me to, but it’s not where I find myself today.

The Hispanic ministry forces me into a people group where I am so humbled by the Lord that I cannot teach, I cannot write, I cannot even communicate in full sentences because I don’t speak the language. I can ONLY listen and serve. I am learning Spanish from the pages of an RVR 1960 Santa Biblia, and from following around a Puerto Rican and a Vera Cruz, Mexican who love Jesus more than their lives and who seek nothing more than to lift up the name of Jesucristo.  

Then there is the ministry with the black church. One street separates our houses of worship, but a million miles separate our solemn baptist assembly from the lively spiritual songs of our darker skinned brothers and sisters. Add to that the fact that I am not a Social Justice Warrior. I just want to show love the way Jesus showed love. I want to build relationship, and that means giving up my comfort for active compassion. In my neighborhood, I can go outside any time of the day or night without fear of being surprised by anything more than a raccoon or coyote. My black sisters don’t have that luxury. And when I go to them, I swallow my fear and pray it doesn’t choke me.

And then there’s this new one … that single mother who hasn’t been in church in 11 years, whose five and six-year-old daughters have never learned to sit and listen and not crumple the envelopes in the backs of the pews. She struggles with bi-polar, anxiety, and the ghosts of neglect, sin, and poverty. She cannot drive, is intimately acquainted with want, and sometimes has problems with boundaries. I believe the Lord will teach me more through her than I can even imagine. 

Oh, yeah, then there’s the writing. 

The HARD ministry sends me on a quest: What is the measure of a ministry?  

What is the measure of a ministry?

In this age of platforms and marketing and likes and follows and social media numbers, we could be tempted to believe that the measure of a ministry is found in stats. And while numbers are important (remember the parable of the talents?) there is something that most people don’t think about that is also important.  

Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all his goods. 

Matthew 24:45-48 NKJV

Add to those words in Matthew, these from 1 Corinthians 4:2. I like how the Good News Bible tells it. 

The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master. 

The measure of a ministry is not how many people you can get to join you, or even to agree with you. The measure of a ministry is not how many visitor cards people fill out. It’s not how shiny or how popular or how loud. 

The measure of a ministry is how faithful the minister/servant/writer is to the One who gave the ministry in the first place.  

Sweet writers, be found faithful. Write.