Christian Ministry: When You Want to Know That There Is a Point to What You Do

christian-ministry_-when-youre-not-sure-theres-a-point-to-what-you-do

Several weeks ago, I did a video chat on fear. All of the other members of my blog were busy, so I decided to do it alone because I felt the message was one that was important and needed to be put out there.

I typed up an outline of notes, went to the library to print them out (because our printer hasn’t been working for some time), and went through them a few times to rehearse for the event.

I fed my kids, put them to bed and then hurriedly touched up my makeup and changed into a nice shirt and finished off the outfit with a necklace (which, by the way, I hardly ever wear because jewelry is a thing of the past now that I have a brood of messy kids).

I went downstairs, laid out my notes, and logged into the computer to start the chat. I began it right at 9, but as I began talking, it was like a giant pin burst my bubble.

The one person in the chat who had shown up decided to leave and swing back around. Approximately no one was in the chat area after that. I couldn’t hear my voice in my headphones like I normally do, and slowly, I began to melt down like an ice cream cone in August heat.

The one thought in my head: Why am I doing this?

And I considered just stopping right then and there. Closing up shop. The careful notes I had written, the frantic run to the library to print out notes, the effort I had taken to put my kids to bed (with promises of “sugar cereal” in the morning if they stayed quiet and in their beds), the rallying of my tired, then very pregnant body to get in front of the computer at night for less than three people to show up (and a few more that didn’t identify themselves in the chat).

I paused the recording to get in touch with help because I wasn’t even sure if my voice could be heard. The technical person got me back on track within minutes, and I finished the chat as best I could — feeling silly, alone, and pointless.

What is this all for, Lord? My heart cried before I went to bed that night. But I suppose the better question should have been: Who is this all for?

Because that is what I really wanted to know. The planning. The preparation. The work. The sacrifice.

And what I mentioned was just some surface stuff. I had some real and troubling conflicts in my life at the moment because of the blog and the choices I constantly made to make time for it.

I woke up the next morning, and the Holy Spirit immediately got my attention during my morning devotion. I read these words by Matt Chandler: “[You’re] not the point.”

It was almost like the Holy Spirit had inserted my name right in those words: “Carol, you’re not the point.”

I was a little ticked off in reading that because I wanted to be comforted, not assaulted by my own self-absorption.

However, wanting the applause of people was a constant struggle for me. Even in a ministry aimed at pointing women to Jesus and finding healing, I wanted to be the point. I wanted to be liked and have millions of Twitter followers and be esteemed for my message. I didn’t think I was successful if only a handful of people showed up for my video chat.

But maybe that handful were important enough to Jesus that He send me that message for them. After all, Jesus was willing to leave the 99 for the one. He didn’t worry when He was talking to the woman at the well or the young rich man or the crippled man on a mat that He was spending so much time on one. He wasn’t urging His disciples to catch the moment on Instagram or send out a Tweet about His good deed that day.

No, He did it because He was always about His Father’s work, and His Father’s work often included the one.

The Point of Our Ministry Efforts

I heard a story once of a man who felt he needed to go to a particular logging town and give a sermon. When he got there, he found the town completely deserted. No one was there. Confused, he walked into the chapel they had there and felt very strongly to give his message to an empty room. So he did. And after the message, he felt like his mission was accomplished, so he left and had no idea why he had done what he had.

Years later, he was approached by a man and thanked. The chapel hadn’t been empty after all — there had been a man hiding in the back. He chose not to reveal himself, but he had heard the entire message — and when the rest of the camp returned, he told everyone the message, and the entire camp was saved.

When we make Him the point, there is always a point to what we do.

You see, we do what we do not for others or to be seen by others, but for Him. And it just so happens that others get blessed in the process of our obedience — even when we give chats to invisible audiences and sermons to “empty” rooms.

John the Baptist said about Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). When he said these words, John had no idea how these words would come to play out in his own life. Some time after he made this statement, John was thrown in prison.

And while in prison, John had a very human moment when he sent a messenger to Jesus and said, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Luke 7:20). Clearly, John was concerned because things weren’t exactly going the way he thought they would.

And Jesus sent him back this response, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me” (Luke 7:22, 23).

Seems kind of terse, doesn’t it? Clearly, John was looking for some kind of reassurance and comfort in his situation, but Jesus didn’t exactly provide that. Instead, He stated that His ministry was advancing in the way it should and people who did not “stumble” because of Jesus were “blessed.” If we look at the word “stumble” there, in other translations, this word is actually “offend.” In other words, Jesus said that anyone that wasn’t offended by the unusual methods of His ministry was “blessed.”

John the Baptist, considered by Jesus to be one of the greatest in the kingdom, didn’t get an explanation as to why things were going the way they were. Only that people were getting healed and set free, even as John himself was in the background, in the shadows — about to be executed.

Why Taking Risks and Doing Ministry Jesus’ Way is Worth It

Have you ever felt like your work is in vain? The risks you have taken? The hard conversations you have had at Jesus’ prompting? The relationships that have been strained or lost when you did what God asked of you? And it seems like what God asks of you just requires you to decrease more and more, and you wonder what He is up to?

Yep, me too. But John the Baptist’s words and life remind us that success in the kingdom of God often looks upside down or backwards to us. Some of the ways God will ask us to minister won’t make any sense to our human reason. He won’t always answer our whys or respond to our questions in the way we expect. We might wonder if what we’re doing matters. If what we’re doing for Him is worth everything we’ve lost.

In a devotional, blogger and author Bonnie Gray encourages us with these words: “If we are being faithful to express who God is calling us to become, then it’s worth it. Faith in Jesus is always worth whatever comes.”

And so, I’ll continue. To dress up. To show up. To do things that feel pointless and confusing because He has told me to.

Because it’s not about me. When I make myself the focus, I look for the huge audience and recognition. I look for things to go the way I want. But when I make Him the point, I let Him orchestrate events the way He wants to. And I leave the results to Him.

Because after all, isn’t that the point?

Related Bible Verses:

Ephesians 6:7: “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”

1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is never in vain.”

Hebrews 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Spread Thin

Suzy Lolley

I taught public school for eleven years. During that time, these were just some of the jobs I had:

Relay for Life Team Captain. Who knew that volunteering to help meant you were the leader? Not a second-year-teacher, apparently. Reading Department Chair. Beta Club Sponsor. Academic Bowl Coach. Cheerleading Coach. Don’t you have to be able to at least do a cartwheel for this? Hospital-Homebound Tutor. Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Coach.

I’ve been involved in the same small church for twenty years, and the story there is the same. Worship leader. When-there’s-a-choir director. Sunday school teacher. Missions advocate. Wedding and funeral singer. Camp and retreat director. There are a million more, but I’m getting tired even looking at my own list…

I can’t even count how many times people in my life have asked me, “Suzy, why don’t you slow down?” Ironically, they are the same ones who ask me to help and appreciate my volunteer spirit.

I’ve tried slowing down. It’s almost impossible for me. I told my brother that I must have four times the average number of thoughts in a single day. Even if I’m lying down, my mind is running a constant to-do list.

You can see it. They can see it. I can see it.

I’m spread thin.spread thin

No one could possibly do all the things I feel I must do and still do them well. As the old adage goes, I often find myself being “Jack of all trades but master of none.” There was a woman in the Bible who I’m sure could have related to me. Martha.

She always gets a bad rap from those who would say to be more like Mary.

I appreciate worship. I love it and have led it for years. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who has yelled at times, “Why am I the only one doing all the work?” Most times the rage has been pointed inward, but at other times, I’ve let it spill over onto those “Marys” sitting there hanging out while I cook or clean or break my back.

Maybe they’re worshipping or taking time for the important things, but all I see is one thing. Laziness. Was that too forward? No, hopefully you were hoping for some honesty and relatability in this post.

I’m not going to stop being Martha. My husband has earned the nickname “Crockpot” because it seems we can never leave the house for a function without my asking him to carry his namesake.

But if I am destined to be Martha, how can I use it to my good? What practical advice can I take away from the Martha vs. Mary saga? Let’s read their story first from Luke 10 (NKJV):

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.’ And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’ “

Here are some practical takeaways I get from the story.

1. There are two distinct types of people in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I have very worshipful moments. My sister-in-law Rachel is a Mary, but she has some powerful serving moments. But we are not the same person. It doesn’t matter how I try to be a reflective, thoughtful, even-tempered Mary. I’m not one.

I’m a doer on most days. I just have to learn to do what adds to the kingdom, and over-extended busyness is not it. I can work and work, but I don’t want to get to the judgment seat one day and see that all of it amounted to no souls being saved.

2. It’s OK to be a Martha; you just have to temper your gifts. Martha is not a curse word. If Jesus hadn’t appreciated His friend’s cooking and serving, He wouldn’t have been in her house. But she was treating her Lord and Savior rudely. She wasn’t paying attention to Him at all, and she was asking Him to break up a fight of all things. And we are left with a Bible story that makes her look like a witch.

I wish I could say I didn’t relate to a lack of hospitality or putting my guests in the crossfire of my agitated mood. I wish that, but I can’t. Martha teaches me that I don’t want either of those traits to be my legacy.

3. The third takeaway is this. There are many good things, and then there is the best thing. Cooking is good. Cleaning is good. Planning and organizing and working are good. But worship is better. Not just better — best. When you and I lay down the tendency to be spread thin and instead embrace the arms that were spread out on the cross, all our work and all our plans will start to mean something.

I don’t want to be spread thin. I want to be a Martha Suzy with a purpose. As Psalm 127 says:

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Accept the gift of rest today, beloved. Let’s not do our work in vain.

Want more Suzy? Stop by and visit her brand new blog where she is taking a year to write about her journey from independence to Jesus-dependence.

 

 

 

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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