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Ministry or Monument?

February 24, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 141

Human beings have an "edifice" complex-an urge to build something permanent. When Peter went with Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration, he felt compelled to build a shrine, but that was not Jesus' plan. The meeting had served its purpose when Moses and Elijah returned to heaven. It was time to move on.

When the disciples marveled at the architecture of the Temple, Jesus contrasted its ephemeral nature with the glory of His resurrected body, the eternal temple of God. He could make the same comparison with any of the imposing structures that serve as churches today.

I once got involved with a ministry to soldiers in Iraq. We packaged gifts and sent them to the field with personal notes and words of encouragement. The program was so successful that Gary Sinise of CSI New York fame threw a concert every July to help us raise funds. When the war began to wind down, the leader said she would find another reason to keep the program going. Why the need to continue? It had served its purpose admirably. She just felt the need to memorialize the ministry.

Programs can easily become monuments to their founders. Perhaps they met a very real need at one time though that need has ceased to exist. Some needs may not be large enough to organize into a program or they may not be a priority for leadership. Some people are not joiners and will not voluntarily participate in a church program. Some people are shy about sharing their needs. Nonetheless, once a program has become part of the church schedule, it takes on a life of its own. Mere activity gives the impression of progress. Rarely does anyone stop to ask whether a program is actually achieving its purpose.

There should be an avenue of service for every believer, but church programs built around specific agendas seldom provide a ministry role for everyone. What is to be done for the person whom God has called to some other role or for whom the need doesn't fit the agenda? A better approach, in many cases, would be to form a ministry task force. The job of the task force would be to identify individual needs and allocate the resources to meet them. Rather than formalize a response with a one size fits all program, the ministry task force would be able to tailor its response to each individual need. Once the need gets met, it could move on rather than institutionalize the program.

The Apostle Paul's Ministry Partners*

Paul had some thirty seven different ministry partners. Some of these partners worked alongside him, others supported him, and still others served jail time with him, but they all united with him to reach those who had never heard the gospel. Each partner or combination of partners performed different roles depending on the nature of the ministry. The fact that Paul had so many partners indicates that his ministry was constantly changing with the needs on the ground. No church program or formal agenda handcuffed him.

The early church made a practice of caring for needs we entrust to the government and social welfare agencies today. Providing meals for widows was one such ministry. The Apostles chose a committee of seven men to ensure that both the Hebraic widows and the Greek-speaking widows in Jerusalem got their fair share of food. Paul took up a collection from the Asian churches to meet the needs of the suffering saints in Jerusalem, and believers of the church at Jerusalem sold their possessions to provide for the needs of the less fortunate among them.

Due to the affluence of our American society, needs may not be so apparent as they were even fifty years ago, but individuals still experience misfortune, families still suffer loss, and the elderly still struggle with loneliness and disability. Just because the modern church has gotten out of the practice of meeting practical needs does not mean there are no needs. The church may not be able to manage all of these needs but they can encourage their members to root out the needs and minister to one another in practical ways. The Internet allows people to make their needs known from the comfort of their own homes even if they cannot get to church. Given the sophistication of modern communications, there is no excuse for overlooking the needs of the church family. Church leaders just need to be flexible enough to adapt their ministries to the changing needs of society and their own members.

* Paul's Ministry Partners:

Aquilla, Luke, Lucius, Tychicus, Apphia, Andonichus, Marcus, Urbane, Aristarchus, Archippus, Nymphus, Onesiphorus, Carpus, Barnabus, Phebe, Philemon, Epaphras, Demus, Priscilla, Secundus, Erastus, Epaphroditus, Silas, Sopater, Jason, Gaius, Tertius, Timothy, Justus, Junia, Titus, Trophimus, Tyrannus

Ministry Task Forces Posted by Craig on Feb 25, 2012

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