After years of throwing around terms like “full-time missions” and “missionary” and “ministry” I have been in a state of evaluating the subconscious ideology we have in connection to Christians in ministry. I’ve been tuning in to my own heart and listening to the preconceived ideas of others in relation to followers of Jesus and ministry to others.
I have come to realize we have made a separation and perhaps even a strange hierarchy of success that only ostracizes all of us and leaves full time ministry or “missions” for the spiritually elite. These ideas only exacerbate cycles of isolation both for the Christian worker and the home churches, and also set up platforms destined to crash and burn when we hold individuals or ministries to a standard above what we are all expected to live as followers of Jesus.
Bob Goff tweeted, “We don’t need to call everything we do “ministry.” Just call it Tuesday. That’s what people that are becoming love do.”
Something deep within me resonates with those words. When we label everything a project or a ministry and we set aside a few hours a week to work on people, we develop an us-versus-them mentality that only perpetuates the cycles of isolation and loneliness.
The devil works to isolate missionaries and pastors from their target people, church members from foreign missionaries, and people in need from people-helpers. He wants us to think in terms of a spiritual hierarchy and set platforms of success and failure so we stop focusing on serving people and start focusing on numbers and fund raising or making a name and face for a ministry.
As I sit with women who bravely recount the worst atrocities they have faced, I have never sensed that they needed to be treated like my new project or like a dysfunctional participant of my program. Perhaps it is us that places them there, and sometimes further exploits individuals for the sake of our project.
When we constantly talk about the ministry we are involved in or the full time missions we are called to, we are at risk for leaving out the reality of life; and that is that 99.9% of it is practical and calls us to die to ourselves and change the toilet paper roll. This truth rings true for every christian in every place and when we realize this we are quicker to hold hands in support of each other rather then place each other on shaky platforms of “Christian” performance.
I think of Jesus walking everywhere to the most broken people with his twelve followers watching everything He did. I don’t see Him giving Paul a medal of honor for his exceptional missionary skills but calling all of them together to pure religion; visiting the fatherless and the widow in their affliction and living unspotted from the world. They all did that in different ways and none of it was more important than the other and all of it advanced the kingdom in a supernatural way.
When you walk with people into the hard realities of their stories and do that by inviting them into your life as Jesus did with His disciples they start to feel the dignity of their own person again. When we cease making isolating comments about heroes we admire and instead treat them as a real person with real struggles we reduce their frustration, loneliness, (and risk of pride) and enhance the healthy community we are created for.
Making comments like, ” I could never do what she does,” and “I can’t imagine having the strength to live there,” or “I could never foster children,” are isolating comments that are not constructive to healthy connection and community in our churches and ministries. The fact is none of us can do anything well without the supernatural power of the Spirit and none of us have the strength to live in hard places without the comfort of the Holy Spirit. All of us do in fact have the power and strength through Jesus to go anywhere and do anything when He calls us. The only ingredient we need is willingness to face what He calls us to.
If we truly grasped that truth none of these inefficient ladders of ministerial success would ever be created in our minds. We would never place leaders in positions of influence on the top of the ladder because we recognize the reality of their daily lives is much more like our own then we realize; dying to self and resolving conflicts and giving cups of cold water to little ones. It would also keep us from placing individuals on the bottom rung of the ladder because we recognize the power of God at work in many different ways and places both in the foreign lands and in the daily routine of jobs and motherhood.
I propose we start reevaluating our terms and the ideology behind them, and then in turn examine our motives and subconscious ideas about what ministry is and focus instead on what it means to be Christian. Instead of setting aside a “term of ministry” or two hours a week for a program, let’s get on our knees and ask Jesus what Christianity really means and develop a lifestyle of Christian habits that are alive and active in the Mondays and Tuesdays of our daily grind.
I think that’s what Jesus did and I think that’s what love does. All of us together in one platform of willingness holding hands in support instead of holding at arms length in intimidation or condemnation is a much more effective strategy for love to overtake the world. It’s much less about some grand calling and “ministry” and much more about learning from Jesus what it means to be His follower in every facet of our life.
Let’s stop calling everything ministry and start calling it Christianity, because that’s what Jesus did.