Thursday, October 26, 2006

On Ministry in the Larger Church

Not long ago Paul Williams offered some great observations about leaders coming into the church from the corporate world. These leaders come with tremendous decision-making and project experience. They know how to get things done through people. They also know how to communicate with and motivate people. At the same time, Williams said, they often do not have a depth of biblical knowledge necessary to Christian ministry. I would add one other observation to that. I am not certain if these leaders understand the "heart" of ministry. The project and the "bottom line" sometimes take precedence over the needs of people.

The executive would cut to the chase and point out that the "needs of the many" outweight the "needs of the few." Perhaps so in the business world, but this isn't the way Jesus conducted ministry. He took the time to minister to the needs of individuals and care deeply about their needs. On one occasion when his disciples were off rounding up dinner, Jesus took the time to minister to the deepest needs of a sinful woman who came seeking water. Another time, Jesus healed an infirm man by the Pool of Siloam who was unable to get into the water. A Roman official came to him imploring him to heal his child. Jesus did so. The Gospels are replete with such stories. The "one sheep who had gone astray" concerned the Master.

Let me turn that last situation around. I'm often concerned that we are so concerned with the 99 who have gone astray that we forget the one lonely sheep struggling to live for Christ. There was a day I understood that! Maybe getting older heightens the recognition of the needs of the struggling sometimes forgotten believer. Those needs are as varied as those with whom Jesus came in contact. Some are trying to win their workmates but are having a hard time because they can't get answers to questions and they're gradually getting sucked into another orbit. I think, too, of those who sacrificed a great deal for Christ's Kingdom and now feel unwanted and unneeded because everything is targeted toward the young. How often do we give up meeting such needs for another meeting or another project or another program?

Please don't misunderstand me! I want to do everything we can to reach the lost and bring them into an adventure with Christ. I just think we need to always remember that people come first! I know projects have deadlines and things need to happen, but people still need to come first. If we get the cart before the horse it will bring harm to the cause of Christ.

We need the vitality, the drive, the decisiveness of leaders from the corporate sector who are willing to allow Christ to make their lives significant. We also need those with a heart for people -- the lost and the saved. Perhaps like those old commercials for Reeses Cups, we need to let the chocolate of the world of ministry and Bible knowledge dip into the jar of peanut butter and produce something better!

Just a thought!