May 31, 2012

Ministry Is Not a Formula

Despite what you may have been told, ministry does not happen through a certain strategy or step-by-step model. We must not be fooled or deceived to think ministry happens according to a business paradigm or a perfectionist's checklist because, if we subscribe to ministry as strategy, it becomes a pressurized situation in which we must produce results at measurable intervals. The question, then, must be asked: does the Spirit have room to move in our strategies? Does He even actually go near to our strategies?

Ministry is like life: it is not a formula.
Ministry happens only in relationships, the primary one being the relationship of the minister to her Savior, in which she comes to know the intricate details of her Savior and the grace and truth that flow from His lips. Out of this quiet, unseen fellowship, something supernatural happens. She is changed as she hears the voice of her Beloved, and she is compelled by His love to engage in outside relationships.

Once the minister has known the intimacy of the Savior, she cannot help but seek that intimacy for others. She receives ministry through relationship with Him, and then she ministers through relationships. Not activities, not events, not conferences, although these are all good things. Ministry happens through messy, organic, give and take relationships, in which we give one another the truth and grace that we are receiving from our primary relationship.

And in interacting with people--living with them, bearing their burdens, listening to their doubts and heartaches, seeing the brokenness of the world--something supernatural happens. The minister recognizes her inability to rescue or save or transform or make people whole, and she runs back to the One who does the actual ministry on behalf of His people.

Though it is simple, it is difficult to resist the feeling that we, as ministers, should be doing more, planning more, leading more events, or even imitating what others are doing in their ministries. If we don't resist formulaic ministry, we will quickly drift from the center, from real-world ministry.

In regards to our primary relationship, Hudson Taylor, in Intimacy with Jesus, writes:
The intense activity of our times may lead us to be zealous in service but neglect personal intimacy with God. This neglect will not only lower the value of the service, but disable us for the highest service. We must never forget that what we are is more important than what we do; that all fruit born when we're not abiding in Christ is fruit of the flesh, not of the Spirit.
He goes on to describe the natural outflow of intimacy with God:
Because she is one with the Good Shepherd, her heart goes instantly and by instinct to the feeding of the flock. She wants to walk in the footsteps of the the one her soul loves. Let her show her love to her Lord by feeding his sheep, by caring for his lambs. Then she need not fear she will miss his presence. When she shares with other under-shepherds in caring for his flock, she will find the chief Shepherd at her side and enjoy his approval. It will be service with Jesus as well as for Jesus.
She is a vessel, a jar of clay, not responsible for outcomes.
She receives love and then gives it, following the leadership of her Beloved.
This is the real world, this is ministry, and it's not a formula.