Ministry is personal. By it’s very definition, when we engage in ministry activities, we’re engaging with people. I hope you view it that way. In my previous post, I wrote about how we’re called to relationship, not to function. And based on the reality that this activity is relational, it impacts me personally.
Sometimes personal is encouraging, and sometimes personal is heavy and tough. Sometimes it’s both at the same time. The past several weeks, I’ve been encouraged and heartbroken simultaneously on many occasions in several different scenarios. One thing I haven’t been is unaffected.
Regardless of where you find yourself in your ministry service, it must to be personal. If we ever get to a point where every conversation or interaction can be handled in a clinical way, it’s a red flag. We need to pull back the curtain between our function and task to see the people who are affected. And when we pull back that curtain, we will be impacted by the personal nature of those people who we’re ministering to.
Ministry is personal because the gospel is personal. Jesus didn’t deal with us from afar. He came here and personally got involved. And in His interactions, Jesus didn’t demonstrate a macho man, emotionless reaction all the time.
In John 11:17-36, Jesus, knowing that His friend Lazarus has died, goes to see Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters. In talking with Lazarus’ sisters, it’s obvious that they are hurting. Look first at what Jesus says in v. 25: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” He knows the hope of who HE is. When we’re walking people through hurt, we know of the real hope that exists in Jesus. We can point people to Jesus. In this case, Jesus – hope in the flesh – is standing there! But He doesn’t dismiss their emotion.
These are his friends; Lazarus who is dead, and Mary and Martha who are hurting. And when He sees them hurt, even though He knows it’s temporary, He hurts along with them. Look at v. 33: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” He loved these people and was emotionally impacted by their hurt. It was personal.
And then, when they mentioned Lazarus laying in the tomb, Jesus wept. Look at v. 34-36: “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” See how he loved him – Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead! Wouldn’t you almost picture Jesus smiling? Saying “girls, stop crying! Just watch what I’ll do.” But we learn something important from this – when we walk with someone through pain, even when we can give the answer of hope, it still hurts, and we can grieve along with them.
Jesus also takes the broad need for the gospel personally. It isn’t just our friends or those we know well that we have to take personally when it comes to ministry. The reality of people needing Jesus should hit us and personally impact us.
Look at Jesus’ emotional response when overlooking an entire city:
“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Jesus wept because He wanted them to know and accept the truth, and because it hurt to know the scope of lostness and the destruction that was to come for them if they disregarded Him.
We should be burdened for those we know, but also for a region that is ours to impact for Christ.
He’s called us to be like Him, and that means taking it personally. Take it personally with those who suffer, who are struggling, or who are in need. Take it personally with those we know who are lost. Take it personally with those we don’t know who are lost.
So, we need to examine ourselves – how personal is it for us?
1. If it’s not very personal, why?
How clinical or factual you can deal with something indicates how removed you are from personal impact and relationship. Tough situations and decisions, hurting people, lostness; when you can interact with these things and not invoke a response that indicates that you care, if it’s all business, then you may have distanced yourself personally from these ministry opportunities.
Consider how you might handle two identical conversations, one with a friend who you know well and one with a stranger. Suppose you’re faced with a conversation that has to be had – one where you need to correct some action that they are taking. How might you handle the two differently? For the friend, you will weigh the cost of every word – you need to be firm but you want them to know that you love and care for them. For the stranger, it’s much easier – just tell them like it is and help them understand it’s your way or the highway. When you’re able to handle situations like the second, it’s no longer personal, and without that personal impact, everything is cold. You lose out on real ministry to people – showing them love the way Jesus loves.
Pull back that curtain. Don’t allow a disconnect between your function and the people that you are serving, loving, and caring for. That is a responsibility we all bear, regardless of what function we find ourselves in.
As followers of Christ, we must demonstrate love. Consider Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 13, or Colossians 3, all which instruct us how to live in a way that demonstrates love and shows compassion.
2. If it is personal, how do we process it?
When we do get personal with these activities, the weight of that ministry can be heavy at times. Here’s what to remember:
– Trust Jesus: remind yourself that you are an ambassador, but He’s in charge.
Consider Matthew 11:28-30: This verse is for people who labor! Jesus isn’t saying, “take my yoke and lay down.” We’re putting the plow to the field, but we’re yoked up with Him and our burden becomes light because He is MUCH stronger. He’s telling us that we can rely on Him and He will bear that weight.
– Lean on others to bear your burdens with you.
Remember the picture of Moses in Exodus 17:8-13. Moses was needed as God’s agent in this battle, but he got tired. And the team bore his burden with him. How amazing of a picture is it to read that Aaron and Hur held his hands up, gave him a place to sit, and supported him as he acted as God directed.
Whoever you serve with; a church staff team, a volunteer group, a small group, or any context where you are serving others in the name of Jesus, you can bear one another’s burdens. If we’re called to do something; to act on God’s behalf to show love and point to Jesus, and the weight of that gets to be heavy, be willing to let others in. Ask for prayer, share the struggle (if confidentiality allows) and look for ways that your Aaron and Hur can help hold up those heavy arms. It doesn’t always have to be you alone.
Let the work of ministry be personal. Don’t try and be the macho, emotionless person who is always strictly business. Don’t convince yourself that your function isn’t really impacting people. See beyond your function and to the people you are serving in Jesus’ name.