You don’t have to be a Christian for very long before you start hearing the word “personal ministry,” as in, your personal ministry. You’re supposed to have one, you know.
Now there’s nothing wrong with this concept; we all want to be useful, and Ephesians 2:10 assures us that,
“. . . we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
As a singularly unassuming person who doesn’t promote a stir when I walk into the room, it’s nice to know that I have a reason for being here, a purpose to my existence, and the eye of the Almighty on me as I fumble through the day. In a world that extols celebrities in Every Single Solitary Arena of our Existence, I find comfort in knowing that I don’t have to be famous to be meaningful, Tweet-worthy to be relevant, important — in the world’s eyes — to be important in God’s.
Now among Christians, this shouldn’t be an issue, because we follow the Man who said:
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.
“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever want to be first must be slave of all.” (Mark 10: 42-44)
Finding Your Ministry
The problem arises when we send people to 1 Corinthians 12, or Romans 12: 3-8, and tell them to look for their personal ministry there, conveniently skipping past Romans verse 3,
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you,”
and focusing on the gifts:
Prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leading, and showing mercy.
Human nature sifts through this list and picks out the “best” ones: Prophesying (which is a difficult one to fake, because if you’re not accurate, you’re not a prophet, but this doesn’t stop people from putting themselves on pedestals), teaching, and leading – the three gifts that have the potential to extol and enrich far more than serving (how humble, and humiliating), encouraging (the leaders, naturally), contributing (this one’s universal — all sheep are expected to offer their wool to the self-appointed shepherd of their flock), and showing mercy.
Way Too Many Leaders — in the Way
If I sound cynical, it’s because I see a lot of people announcing that they are leaders and teachers with a corresponding unwillingness to listen to the people “under” them, and a pronounced lack of skill in operating as a servant, or slave to all. “All of the leadership positions in this community are taken,” the rest of the sheep are told, “but there are many openings for serving and giving. This is where your ministry lies.”
I know a young adult who, in younger years, was forcibly placed in foster care, and no authoritarian figure, theoretically set there for the child’s benefit, listened to what the child said. Instead, this person was told,
“You need to respect the leaders and authorities in your life.”
“I was taught to respect people in authority,” the child retorted, “but I was also taught to determine whether or not they deserved to be there. You don’t. You need to earn respect before you demand it.”
Wise words from a tween. It’s along the lines of not thinking of yourself more than you ought, a pitfall for all of us.
The Work We Do for God
So what is your work for God? Most of us can readily identify our inability to prophesy, work miracles, heal the sick, speak — authentically — in tongues. Apostle positions are rare, and they appear to have been taken up by a finite number of qualified persons no longer with us. So the more confident, and blatant, announce that they are teachers or administrators, whether or not they actually are. It’s not so much whether they are qualified as that they are assertive, and they remain where they are because we allow them to do so.
But there is one thing that every single believer can, and should do, because Jesus Himself called us to it:
“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6: 29)
Believing Jesus, trusting His words, relying upon His goodness, accepting His mercy, resting in His arms — these are not easy things to do, and anyone who blithely announces that they are, isn’t being particularly honest, with himself or others.
Stop worrying about your “personal ministry.” Quit agonizing over which gifts are yours. God has serious work for you to do — believing in the One He sent — and in the process of learning how to do it, you will minister to others richly, aptly, generously, and well.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage people to think twice where they give their allegiance, and make sure that their primary allegiance is always given first, foremost, and exclusively to Christ.
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